Ireland, Autumn 1987
Organisation: The Workers' Party
Publication: Ireland
Issue:Autumn 1987
Contributors: Info
Seán Garland, Seamus Lynch, Tomás MacGiolla, Proinsias De Rossa
Type:Publication Issue
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: Peter McVerry John Hewitt

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

30th December 2013

This document provides a sense of the image the Workers’ Party sought to project internationally during the 1980s, particularly – but not exclusively – in Europe. It came on foot of significant gains by the Party in the 1987 General Election where it increased its representation to four TDs and a sense that the party was in the process of making even greater gains.

It states:

The battle for alternative socialist policies in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland received a major boost in general elections held in both areas this year, with substantial gains being recorded by WP candidates.

It notes the four TDs and that ‘in a number of constituencies the WP increased its vote substantially setting the scene for further gains at the next general election’.

It continues:

The election results confirmed a further slide in support for the Labour Party and gave a crushing blow to the sectarian murder and terror policies of Provisional Sinn Féin, whose vote slumped by up to 50 per cent in many constituencies ending up with just 1.8% of the national vote. The Communist Party of Ireland ran five candidates winning only 725 votes, .005% of the national vote.

Since the election the WP has established itself as the leading voice on the Irish Left. The party has proposed talks with Labour for co-operation on social and economic issues, but these were not responded to positively.

Following the election WP President Tomás Mac Giolla pointed out the basis has now been set for a clear development of Left-Right politics in Ireland, something which the conservative parties with the collusion of Labour, had striven to avoid in the past.

‘For the WP the task of building a strong and militant Left Alternative in Ireland, in cooperation with other workers’ communist and socialist parties throughout Europe, is a vital task in winning state power for the Irish working class’.

It also discusses ‘Northern Election Gains’, arguing that it ‘significantly boosted its vote in NI… increasing its total to just under 20,000’. This is suggests ‘showed a reduction in support of rate policies of bigotry and abstention, with the votes of both the Unions parties and Provisional Sinn Féin declining considerably’.

Inside it has an article on the murder of WP supporter Thomas Emmanuel Wilson by the Provisional IRA. And in the course of that it argues:

The WP position on terrorism has been absolutely clear for a long time: we call for its elimination. For this is not an isolated incident. No one is safe: these gangsters have bombed cafes, public houses, slaughtered men and women indiscriminately. And we insist that to label people as ‘police agents’ is a gross distortion of reality.

Other articles discuss the ‘SDLP – Washington connection’, and mentions the Irish Republican Club of North America which ‘opposes secret US funding of the SDLP’. They call for ANC recognition as the ‘authentic representative voice of the majority of South Africans’ and there’s a photograph on page four of MacGiolla and Kader Asmal at a rally in Dublin meeting ANC representative Reg September.

It takes Ken Livingstone’s ‘ignorance’ on the North to task on the same page. There’s also news about a 1916 commemoration in Belfast. Another piece by Sean Garland discusses the WP as a vanguard party and there is a long pieces on Nicaragua.

As noted above, the direction of this is explicitly oriented towards an international audience, and in particular one that, for want of a better term, would be part of orthodox communism and those elements on the left that would orient towards that.

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  • By: dilettante Wed, 01 Jan 2014 03:20:06

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    Quite right WbS, but my question for the WP friends remains. Did the most poisonous elements of the sticks (with some exceptions) head into the Labour Party? (in some cases as a possible way of securing immunity for certain deeds).

    Or are those mad elements still dominant in the WP?
    Are there more recent international publications of the WP that could give us a clue.

    I think Mark Ps question above is a fair one “on the relative positioning of the WP ..” (obviously I’d prefer the CPI to explain their own position rather than ask the WP to do it)

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  • By: dilettante Wed, 01 Jan 2014 03:25:09

    In reply to B. Leer.

    I wouldn’t like to have to live or die on the grounds of everybody who has called me an ‘esteemed comrade’ or something similar.
    I’d be inclined to leave this one.
    The text of the speech itself would be interesting though.

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  • By: Michael Wed, 01 Jan 2014 11:17:33

    Fair enough WBS but if anyone had dared sing “a nation once again” at a WP event in Ireland at that particular time they would have been run out of town! The point I am trying to make is that the wps obsessive hatred of SF cut no ice with many left wing and anti imperialist movements worldwide.There are permanent memorials to the hunger strikers in Cuba and on Robben Island ,streets named in their honour in left wing areas of Europe and SF had no problem in joining the most left wing group in the European parliament.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 01 Jan 2014 11:38:15

    In reply to Michael.

    As it happens, and having been in it in the 1980s and early 1990s, I tend to agree that would probably have been the case. I wasn’t clear enough, I was sort of being a bit jokey (though it is true that in the 70s MacG was seen as a bit green and later around the DL split not entirely trusted – his own words – to stay with the party). It’s something I think the WP never really came to terms with or never really understood just how it functioned more widely. In fairness though (and this operated in all directions) any group (and I include WP, SF, etc) that had been mutually and violently in feuds with others was going to be deeply antipathetic to those groups. People on all sides were scarred by desperate events.

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  • By: Michael Wed, 01 Jan 2014 12:14:12

    Even the late Brian Keenan stated near the end of his days that the 1970 split was the greatest of tragedies.While I would be hostile to what the WP became,I would have had some time for them up to the late 70s.However by that stage they essentially became neo unionist andl lost the respect of virtually everyone of a republican mindset.They seemed to be unduly influenced by the likes of Harris and revisionist historians like Bew and Patterson.Had they retained some semblance of republicanism it might have been possible to have avoided the intense hatred that developed.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Wed, 01 Jan 2014 12:23:12

    Time moves on. Organisations change and sometimes die. We have to fight tomorrow’s battles. Who would have thought that Sinn Fein would be now well on the way to being an acceptable coalition partner with FG and FF.

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  • By: Michael Wed, 01 Jan 2014 12:46:06

    Both FF and FG hate SF with a passion and lest anyone doubt that ,look no further than the latest furore concerning the Smithwick report.They never showed the same hostility to the WP in any of its formations.

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  • By: Johnny Forty Coats Wed, 01 Jan 2014 13:14:32

    In reply to Michael.

    What disgusted me about the WP wasn’t their opposition to the Provos’ armed campaign, which I fully shared, but their shameless brown nosing of Unionism.

    The point at which I realised that the WP was beyond all hope of redemption was when Seamus Mallon was ejected from his seat at Stormont because of his membership of the Seanad, following a legal case taken by Unionists. The right of the voters of Armagh to elect the representative of their choice would have been respected by any organisation with the slightest sense of democracy, but the WP ran a candidate in the resulting by-election. The Orange ascendancy had decreed that an uppity Taig had to be put in his place and the WP was happy to go along with the resulting charade.

    This same outlook is expressed in Mac Giolla’s speech, as reported in the newsletter, where he states: “The failure to offer any consultation to the Unionists in the run-up to the Hillsborough signing was a serious mistake”. Mary Robinson resigned from the Labour party on the same issue. I could never bring myself to vote for her after that.

    The reality was that the Unionists had refused to enter any negotiations involving the Irish government and the WP-Robinson line was an effective endorsement of the long-standing Unionist veto on political progress. The Anglo-Irish agreement, although objectively only a small step forward, represented an enormous leap forward subjectively because it sent out the message that, for the first time since the Curragh mutiny, the British dog was no longer being wagged by the Unionist tail. That drove the Unionists wild, of course, but it was an absolute prerequisite for the progress that followed.

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  • By: Mark P Wed, 01 Jan 2014 14:05:53

    In reply to Mark P.

    Don’t be silly, Garibaldy. The bizarreness of the WP’s mental landscape in this period is so self-evident that not one person in this discussion – including people who are in no way hostile to the WP – even hint at an apology for it. It’s barking mad stuff. You know it and we know it,and worse still, you know that we know it even as you wheel out a weaselish defence. As I said above “Stalinism ultimately requires the development of a great ease with proclamations and arguments that are both untrue and known to be untrue”.

    I’m not surprised that you missed the point about Trotskyism by the way. The issue of note is not that a Stalinist organisation busy crawling to the Stalinist dictatorships regarded Trotskyism “negatively”. It would be of note if a Stalinist organisation busy crawling to the Stalinist dictatorships did not do so. What was of note was the utterly crazed application of the term Trotskyist to every even slightly left current e WP didn’t like, from Ken Livingstone to the Red Army Faction, and in other contexts the Provos. This is lunacy of a type more often found in the publications of 1930s high Stalinism rather than in the views of their gray 1980s descendants. I quite like your attempt to reframe this gibberish as a critique of “ultra leftism”. I mean if there’s one thing that Ken Livingstone is known for it’s his wild ultra leftism, right?

    As for my preferred description of various Provo atrocities, if there’s one thing every leftist, other than the WP and Rick from the Young Ones, should be aware of its that describing things we don’t like or disapprove of as “fascist” or “Nazi”, when they have no connection to fascism or Nazism is infantile.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 01 Jan 2014 14:10:43

    In reply to Michael.

    Interesting thoughts Michael. Even just in the literature there was definitely a change in the United Irishman around the 1976 onwards period (again the MacGiolla period was seen as too green). Of course, the split with the IRSP hadn’t helped or the consequent feuds. I’d share your criticism to some extent, I think there was a real overshoot between what was feasible in terms of working within the existing constraints of the communitarian nature of society in the North (in particular) and broader aspirations politically which saw it functionally move away from republicanism. This was – I think – particularly marked under de Rossa et al, and to some extent was reversed post the DL split.

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  • By: Mark P Wed, 01 Jan 2014 14:15:01

    In reply to Michael.

    They hate SF so much that they will eventually be coalition partners with it in the shared administration of neoliberalism, just as Fine Gael were with the tattered remnants of stickyism in Democratic Left and just as the DUP and UUP currently are with SF in the North. I don’t have very much time for the Workers Party’s baroque Stalinism, but the sight of a Provo sympathiser trying to pose as a critic from their left is stomach churning.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 01 Jan 2014 14:16:17

    In reply to Michael.

    I have to agree re the hatred FG and FF have to SF. Knowing people in both those parties the idea that there’s any real prospect of coalition – well at least with FG in the foreseable future – is deeply unlikely. FF? That’s a different matter, but I’d almost put money on it Adams would have to go before they’d do it. And I think that might – rightly – be a price too high for SF to pay.

    In relation to the WP, that’s an interesting point. I think there was a sense amongst some that the WP was ‘housetrained’ to some degree – a perception I’d bet some like EH had no problem with, though it is true that in 1992 there was no prospect of WP entering a coalition with FG. Even DL was a bit of a push a few years later but the challenge was less great there for obvious reasons.

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  • By: Michael Wed, 01 Jan 2014 14:52:41

    Ive observed the debates on this site for a few years now and found it to be quite interesting.Believe it or not ,as I work in what would be considered a manual occupation I have only recently become sufficiently computer literate to post a few of my own thoughts.I wondered if someone from my political background would get very far without being shat on by the likes of Mark p.True to form ,with his “provo sympathiser” and “stomach churning” remarks,Ididnt even last a day! So good luck to you all but I doubt 2014 will be a very long year for me on CLR!

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  • By: Mark P Wed, 01 Jan 2014 15:31:11

    In reply to Michael.

    “Someone disagreed with me on the internet” he said, gazing into the distance, the single tear running down his cheek encompassing all the desperation and misery of countless thousands of years of human suffering.

    Get over yourself, Michael. If you express controversial political opinions, whether to gobshites on the internet or to your fellow horny handed sons of toil at your job down the salt mines, people will express disagreement from time to time, and disapproval, and exasperation, and sometimes even scorn. That comes with the territory, precisely because you are putting forward controversial views on controversial subjects. If being described as a “Provo sympathiser” after a series of comments sympathetic to Sinn Fein and critical of the Workers Party from a Republican perspective, or discovering that some people find Sunn Fein’s occasional leftish pretensions revolting, is enough to hurt your feelings to the point of abandoning the site, I can only suggest that you must find life in general a rather difficult and upsetting experience.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Wed, 01 Jan 2014 16:26:57

    In reply to Michael.

    They are rivals and that explains a lot. The real owners of Ireland forced Dessie O’Malley into a coalition with Haughey. I figure not the next election but the one after if it suits. Put the WP in perspective they were never as strong as SF is now. Look at the witchhunting done to Labour down the years and they were never a threat to anyone.
    Oh and the real problem is Adams brother and SF bourgeois rivals are not the only ones who think this is a problem.

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  • By: workers republic Wed, 01 Jan 2014 16:35:08

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    WBS ,I don’t want to upset your peace of mind .I was answering a question that the was asked , though I didn’t mention any names. A full report on the case appeared on the Echo and a I think on the Examiner; the Echo explained how theAppeal decision was made. People can make up their own minds, if this could be described as a “technicality “, I have often heard it used regarding this case, that’s a fact, that the I heard it

    used .
    You Liam are correct, other groups have assassinated political rivals

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 01 Jan 2014 16:37:22

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    And you didn’t WR, I just didn’t want any of us – including yourself – getting any heat from others over even just the reference.

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  • By: workers republic Wed, 01 Jan 2014 17:08:02

    In reply to workers republic.

    I don’t know how the word Liam got in there, when I tried to fix it, it went all over the place ! Small phone!
    WBS , you are correct groups assassinated political rivals, other groups also. The Sticks are not the only group that did it.
    A few days after the Echo article a garbled version appeared in the Irish Times. It was factually inaccurate. It named one man as having played a lessor role in the killing of Larry White , that of procuring a car and of not knowing what it was to be used for . It got the names wrong, the man who played “a lessor role” was a different man. The Echo article can be checked and the published reports at the time of the trial .
    Again I don’t want to upset your peace of mind and wish you and allCLR posters the best for the New Year.

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  • By: Colleen Fri, 04 Apr 2014 04:09:18

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    or reviews daily along with a cup of coffee.

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