Militant – Special Irish Edition
Organisation: Militant
Publication: Militant
Issue:Special Irish Edition
Contributors: Info
Finn Geaney, Peter Hadden, Brian Kinkead, Jerry Lynch, Bridget O'Toole, Peter Taaffe, Alex Wood
Collection:The British Left on Ireland
Type:Publication Issue
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

25th February 2008

An interesting addition to the Archive today. Here we have Militant’s Special Irish Edition, from 1972.

It has to be said, this is a fairly crisp and clean production. Note the almost tabloidesque presentation and the stark photography.

But it is, naturally, the content which is most important. I won’t say too much because it’s a fairly short and easy read. But to whet your appetites, here we have a cri de couer from Militant to the Official IRA and a critique of the Provisional IRA. Needless to say neither body matches up to the exacting standards of Militant. Nor is it entirely clear from the text how some circles are to be squared. For example we are told ‘the organisations in Ireland today can be judged by their attitueds towards the Protestant workers and towards the British Labour movement. The living standards of the Northern Ireland workers are being attacked by the Tory governments at Westminster and Stormont in the interests of British capital. In this sense the plight of Catholics today in Ulster will tomorrow be the plight of workers in Glasgow, Cardiff and Liverpool’, which might seem to tip to an east/west political focus. Not at all, for we are later told that “In Ireland, the national question can only be resolved on the basis of a United Socialist Republic. The demand for socialism must be raised…”. Hard to see a clear way forward in that context. And the final paragraph doesn’t really clarify things one way or another…

“When the mass of the Protestant working class of Ulster begins to break the stranglehold of Tory Unionism, when those sections of the small farmers and workers of the 26 counties who support Fianna Fail begin to move, under the pressure of the capitalist crisis, in the direction of working-class unity; when capitalism as now, cannot satisfy even the most basic human needs of jobs, houses and comprehensive social welfare policies, then the development of a mass all-Ireland party of Labour will make the achievement of a United Socialist Republic of Ireland seem possible.”

Indeed. No problem there then.

So the answer, predictably, is workers unity, as the headline on the last page indicates. There is a laudable emphasis on the more progressive manifestations of class struggle across the 20th century and the instances - few, very few - where some nascent unity manifested itself are detailed (a line that OSF and after would also focus in on).

For those of us familiar with such things it’s interesting to see the familiar names on show here. For here is Peter Taafe (and there is Peter Hadden) writing about Two Nations…Bankruptcy of theories of O’Brien and the “Marxist” sects, that latter would be BICO to you and me.

In a way the future evolution of their approach to the North is laid out here - I’m thinking in particular of the policies of the Socialist Party.

It’s all fascinating, and if there is one problem it is that everything is shaped to a Militant agenda, rather, perhaps than dealing with the facts on the ground as it were. But, at heart it’s more right than wrong, and one cannot fault it for attempting an analysis.

More from Militant

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  • By: Pete Fri, 29 Feb 2008 18:31:25

    “Would you have supported the British state shooting them in their beds (instead of letting them through roadblocks and giving them files on potential IRA men)?”
    The Loyalists death squads were a creature of the security apparatus but did represent a sizeval section of the Prod working class views, so whatever action the state deemed necessary to deal with them so be it. I think you miss my argument, I do not support people being killed but it was necessary, the British state was going nowhere quickly. Provo etc attacks upon it and the Protestant community were just further entrenching the British state and corrupt aspects of it i.e. The Provos/IPLO had to be stopped first – proof of this is that is what happened, once this was done the Loyalists became an irrelevance which must be dealt with as per the SB /MI5.
    As for Northern Ireland anti-working class state – yes but NHS, some degree of community housing no Catholic Church domination compared to the corporate gombeen shit hole down south.
    So where do you differ with me – was the Provo campaign aiding the Republican agenda or hindering it? Did Provo killings lead to more or less innocent civilians dying? Where they entrenching the British state or a threat to it? Don’t been sentimental be real.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Fri, 29 Feb 2008 21:02:57

    I’m really really unconvinced by your argument Pete. As easy to turn it around and say that the Provo campaign had to go to the lengths it did in order that the British would then accept greater demands by Nationalists and Republicans when the time came to negotiate. In other words you’re making a virtue of necessity, and that’s surely a triumph of sentimentality over reality.

    Incidentally, bad and all as the South was/is, let’s not overdo it. If we’re all going to head for the apocalyptical hills surely that would justify a different sort of response in the south – perhaps a souped up pre-69 IRA campaign. I don’t believe that and I don’t think you do either. As bourgeois societies go the RoI was pretty ordinary if poorer than most.

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  • By: Pete Fri, 29 Feb 2008 23:37:25

    I’m very much of the opinion that an IRA campign should have been directed to the South – here it had the possibilty of success in the North it was always a waste – what have the Republican ideal got from the 30 years of bloodshed in the North – fuck all – there is no such thing as the Republican community. The RoI is not ordinary I think of no other westren state which has had less input from Socialist or Social Democrat ideas full stop

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  • By: Ed Hayes Mon, 03 Mar 2008 14:08:50

    Your off your nut Pete, but do carry on.

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  • By: Pete Mon, 03 Mar 2008 16:49:39

    Why? Ed should the IRA not have directed a poltical campign in the South? Why did it have to be the North was it because of the poor oppressed Catholics needing to see a bit of blood scarfice to honour dear mother Ireland – not really a socialism is it, but keep on troting along

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  • By: Ed Hayes Mon, 03 Mar 2008 17:00:11

    I didn’t say they SHOULD have directed a campaign anywhere. An armed campaign against the south would have been crushed within five minutes by a government with huge popular support for repression. I suppose the provos launched one against the north because they were mostly from there and in the context of de-colonisation they probably thought they could win (not saying they could have, but they thought it) about 200 British soldiers were killed 1971-73, thats more than the Taliban and Iraqi rebels have managed, with bigger countries and bigger resources. I think blood sacrifice for mother Ireland had very little to do with it, maybe in Rory’s head but him and the Roscommon men were not doing the killing (or dying).
    Btw I’m glad you feel northern Protestants pain, its just that they must be special people because Stalinists like yourself had no trouble in the past justifying all sorts against whole nationalities that Uncle Joe thought reactionary…so whats so special about northern loyalists? if the Algerian colons didn’t have the right to prevent independence and the Isrealis don’t have the right to stop the Palestinians reclaiming their land then why do Ulster Protestants have the right to prevent the reunification of a country partioned only in 1921?
    On the grounds of simple humanity I of course think they have every right to believe what they want, but I’m a chilled out guy and your a raving lunatic so whats your reason for justifying what they do and hating what the other crowd do?

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 03 Mar 2008 20:39:56

    Erm… can’t we ratchet it back a tad? I’m very very dubious about the proposition that the IRA (actually part of me wonders which IRA) should have taken on the RoI.

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  • By: The Left Archive: “Militant”, 1979 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution Tue, 06 May 2008 07:04:48

    […] issue of Militant from October 1979 provides an interesting contrast with the previous one posted in the Archive. The concentration on economic issues is more marked. Granted the previous […]

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  • By: Irish Left History Project: Irish Militant Tendency, 1972 to c.1989 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution Fri, 02 Oct 2009 06:34:14

    […] UK. I’m reposting the issue of Militant from the Left Archive where other copies can be found here and […]

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  • By: Jolly Red Giant Fri, 10 Sep 2010 19:18:28

    Came across this thread while looking for something else. Don’t know if anyone will bother reading it – but I will offer some clarifications on issues raised.

    1. The ‘Militant’ organisation in Ireland was officially founded in 1974. MIM began publication in 1973. Up to 1973 it operated with the assistance of Militant members in England who occasionally printed the Irish paper from time to time (hence the ‘Irish Edition’ on the banner of the paper in 1972). This is not to say that the Irish members did what London told them – merely that at the time they did not ahve the resources (numbers and money) to print a seperate newspaper and man its own offices. Throne and Hadden were the two most prominent people initially, Hadden returned to the North after finishing his college at Sussex Uni where he had joined – many of the leading English members of the CWI also attened Sussex at this time. Interestinly both Throne and Hadden were born into Protestant families – Throne from Lifford and Hadden across the bridge in Strabane. The other most prominent early members were Joe Higgins and Dermot Connolly.

    2. The comment from dilittante about ‘workers militia’ is partically incorrect. The Militant called for the establishment of ‘local community defence committees’ based on the trade unions. Many of these local defence committees emerged spontaneously all over the North at the start of the Troubles at the same time as the deployment of the troops (who mainly operated, initially, in parts of Belfast and Derry). After a period they were either taken over by the IRA or faded away primarily because of the failure of the TU leadership to offer any support (instead they backed the deployment of the troops).

    3. Yes – there was discussions in the Militant about conducting entry work into the WP. My first recollection of this was in 1984-5 with the LP suffering in coalition and a certain momentum generating behind the WP at the time. As Mark P stated – it became clear that shortly after the 1987 election the WP began to tear themselves apart between the opportunist wing and the old stalinist hardliners – so the discussion became moot. To the best of my recollection there was no contact with anyone in the WP and the intention was to send a handful of people into the WP to see if they were attracting left-leaning youth or tu activists and what possibilities might exist for opening discussions with this new layer.

    4. The Special Branch raid on the Militant offices in Middle Abbey Street was more farce than anything else. It occurred in the middle of the expulsions from the LP. The pretext for the raid was that Dominic McGlinchey was seen going into the offices – apparently they had mistaken (on purpose) a member of the Militant who had a vaguely similar appearance to McGlinchey, for him. One morning a team of Branch men clambered up the six flights of the narrow stairs to the office on the top floor followed closely behind by Charlie Bird and a camera crew. There were many jovial comments about Bird’s previous membership of the RMG (or WRP) and his coat-tailing of the Special Branch. The raid was mentioned that evening on the news and is now part of the folklore of the left.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Fri, 10 Sep 2010 19:25:02

    In reply to Jolly Red Giant.

    Thanks JRG. That’s particularly interesting to see more light shed on potential entry into the WP.

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  • By: Captain Rock Fri, 10 Sep 2010 19:40:34

    And funnily enough the WP took the piss out of Militant in their magazine after that raid. And supported Kinnock kicking them out of Labour in Britain.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Sat, 11 Sep 2010 13:29:55

    Charlie Bird was never in the RMG or the WRP. He was in the Young Socialists who were fairly broad church including people who later went on to form the SWM and RMG.This is the origin of the famous picture of C with Tariq Ali at Peter Grahams funereal. Never understood why he felt he had to distance himself so far from his youthful involvements.He wrote a guide to the Irish far left in Hibernia back then, circa early 70s. Probably worth an nostalgiac look.
    He was at least a WP fellow travellor in RTE.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Sat, 11 Sep 2010 15:35:36

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    Thanks for clarifying that re Bird, Jim. Was he really a WP fellow traveller? really?

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Sat, 11 Sep 2010 15:50:48

    In my opinion yes. He did gopher work for them while in the Irish Times library.
    He was chair of the NUJ in RTE and opposed any protests over section 31. I am bemused why he became the conduit for Provo stories later.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Sat, 11 Sep 2010 16:08:19

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    Ah, interesting. Got to say, Section 31 was a curse, and I was always puzzled by the support of some WP people for it, it’s like didn’t they get how as an instrument it could as easily be turned agin them as the Provos?

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  • By: Jolly Red Giant Sat, 11 Sep 2010 21:04:42

    Just as a follow-up to this in relation to the expulsion of Militant from the LP.

    In the early 1980’s the left in the LP was gaining significant support. By 1984 the Militant had four members on the Administrative Council and with Labour Left were neck and neck with the right for control of the AC. The crunch for the right-wing came at the LP conference in Cork in 1984. The LP was buried in coalition with FG. Spring was under enormous pressure and motion after motion was passed at the Conference condemning the actions of LP ministers in the coalition.

    The key moment was a motion to change the method of electing a leader of the LP. A motion proposing that the LP leader be elected by a vote of the membership was proposed. It was common knowledge that Michael D Higgins was significantly more popular among the rank and file of the LP than Spring and it was expected that Higgins would defeat Spring in a run off between the two of them. Michael D was chariing the conference when the vote was taken. When it was put to a vote the proposal was passed by about 2:1 of the delegates present. Immediately there was uproar from Spring’s supporters who demanded a card count. The rules stated at the time that the doors of the conference hall should be closed and a card count taken. However, Michael D. allowed the doors to remain open for over 20 minutes as he listened to delaying tactics from the right-wing delegates. During this time every pub in the vicinity of the conference was scoured for Spring’s delegates (he had brought seven busloads of mainly elderly people with him for the day – meaning he had a quarter of the entire LP membership in N. Kerry) or anyone else who would take a drink in return for holding up a card for 10 minutes.

    When the vote was finally taken the proposal was defeated by 12 votes. Spring and the right immediately went on the offensive. The next three or four conferences were held in Tralee. At the 1985 Conference Spring brought over members of the Swedish Social Democracy to advise on expelling the left (they had a history of expelling all left-wing opposition). Subsequently, the following two years, Spring had members of the US Democrats at the conference.

    Crunch time came in 1987 just after Joe Higgins was nominated to stand in Dublin West. Stagg didn’t want competition for ‘leader of the left’ and backed Spring’s attacks on the Militant, supporting the shutting down of Militant controlled branches in Dublin West. Eamon Tuffy was imposed as the candidate in DW and the expulsions began in earnest with the support of Labour Left.

    The Militant maintained a presence in the LP until 1992. I was one of the last to leave. In late 1991 discussions began in earnest within the Militant about moving to establishing an open organisation and campaigning independantly of the LP. There was some intense discussion within the Militant about the ‘open turn’. An intense debate was already underway within the CWI about the ‘open turn’ in Scotland which enventually led to the split by Grant and Woods.

    The one major issue of contention within the Militant during the discussions was would we cut ourselves off from influence within the trade union movement by spliting decisively from the LP. These points of contention were raised mainly by TU activists within the Militant. In the end the decision to establish an open organisation was passed without oppositon and just three or four TU activists abstaining (including myself).

    With hindsight the Militant should have split from the LP in 1986. It was inevitable that the LP leadership would not tolerate Joe Higgins as a candidate and would move to expel us. In reality we should have taken advantage of the LP being in coalition and ran not just Joe Higgins, but other candidates too, as independant socialists in the 1987 election.

    As an addendum – I attended the 1992 LP conference in Waterford – I think I was the only Militant member there as a delegate. A LP candidate from Cavan/Monahghan, Ann Gallagher stood up and said to a standign ovation ‘when I joined the LP we had all these workers and trade unionists. But all that has changed now – now we have real people like doctors, solicitors, accountants and other professionals’. As she got a standing ovation I got up and walked out.

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  • By: Jolly Red Giant Sat, 11 Sep 2010 21:10:05

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    Dermot Connolly was the person who told me he was in the RMG (from what I recall). I remember someone telling me that Joe Higgins was in the same LP branch in DSE at the time.

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  • By: Mark P Sat, 11 Sep 2010 21:30:50

    In reply to Captain Rock.

    In that they were just talking their lead from the British Stalinists, who were (of course) big fans of anti-Trotskyist witchhunts in the Labour Party.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Sat, 11 Sep 2010 22:31:29

    In reply to Jolly Red Giant.

    Jim would know having been in the RMG himself.

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