Ireland One Nation
Organisation: Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
Author:Reg Birch
Collection:The British Left on Ireland
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: Ulster Workers' Council strike, 1974

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

6th July 2009

Perhaps there should be a sub-section in the Archive of materials by non-Irish political formations referencing Ireland. In the main, as might be expected, such publications are focussed on Northern Ireland and the political responses to it. And this document here is very clearly of that type with a concentration on the events in the North around the time of the Ulster Workers Council strike.

A few words about Reg Birch and the CPB (M-L). This was not as it happens the sister party of the Communist Party of Ireland (M-L). The latter were aligned with the Communist Party of England (M-L), later the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (M-L). They were one of Hardial Bains progeny. It’s important not to confuse them either with the Communist Party of Great Britain, (M-L), a much more recent creation dating from 2004 which apparently has a number of refugees from Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (and which we’ve mentioned previously ). The genesis of the CPB (M-L) was in a split in 1968 led by longtime CPGB member Reg Birch to a Maoist position. With that sort of provenance one might expect it to take lines similar to the CPE (M-L), which indeed it did, being yet another cheerleader of Albania.

Given that it is hardly surprising that the party would take a strong line on the North. However, as will be seen in the text this diverges somewhat from other formations on the further left.

Also unsurprisingly the document, including a forward by Reg Birch, places the UWC strike within a context…

…that taken in Chile by the so-called Lorry Drivers’ Strike —lorry owners to a man — against Allende. They are but sheep in wolves’ clothing and are troops who in truth lack even the alleged loyalty of the Swiss Guards to the Vatican, for they will surely desert the long-dead Dutchman and that foreign flag of which they prattle on — the union jack — when confronted, as they must be, with the might of the Irish people, their vanguard the Irish working class led by an Irish Communist Party Marxist Leninist, in the true struggle necessary —National Liberation, a Free Ireland. The time is now. I call upon all my friends, old friends, members yet (how sad!) of a foreign revisionist party, the CPGB, to throw away their illusions and their slavishness. Rest on the Irish people who are the best sons of the Irish working class. Take the cream of them, be it in Belfast or Dublin or any other small corner of that beautiful land, and build a true Marxist-Leninist Party for Ireland - emerge! Far be it from me, with the confusion and reaction in England to preach. One task is clear to us all — Independence. You alone can lead the way in your own realm. It is yours. There are many warriors, true sons of Ireland, to join the battle. Out with the invader, be it from Westminster or the Vatican and all their servants resident, willing or unwitting. STRIKE AGAINST BRITISH IMPERIALISM IN IRELAND! ALL OUT TO KICK OUT BRITISH TROOPS!

The document then continues with a potted history of the conflict in the late 1960s. Entertaining to see some of the language used… For example…

The recent campaign began with demands for electoral reform (such as one-man-one vote in local elections) and for an end to discrimination against Catholics in jobs and housings. Its members at first were largely middle class liberals, along with students who added to the demands their own empty calls for socialism [sic]. … New tactics emerged as the movement gained an increasing mass character. Water pipelines were blown up [is this correct, I always assumed that it was loyalists who did that]. More militancy was shown in demonstrations… … —Only a united people will succeed in getting Britain out. Great strides toward unity have been taken in northern Ireland during the past year, but religious divisions remain. They are the secret weapon of British imperialism which it does all in its power to foment. —More and more protestant workers recognise this and realise that the independence of northern Ireland is a myth and a sham. They see the price of privileges over the catholics is a British military dictatorship. … Every political movement of the Irish people was preceded by unrest among the organised working class. … Introduction of the Act entitled ‘Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provision)’ is ostensibly aimed at those perpetrators of the cruel senseless, wanton violence against the civil population here in Britain. But no-one should be fooled by its temporary specious nature. In truth it is a further attack upon civil liberties and the right of freedom here. Neither will it do anything to stop these mad cowboys who are now characterised as the IRA - for which there is no evidence. Though we did believe it was a break-away section, self-styled provisional, who carry out these senseless acts.

Which perhaps offers us an example of function not quite following form, at least as compared with the rhetoric emanating from the CPI (M-L) during the same period.

Worth looking at is the photograph on Page 9 of a CPB (M-L) Rally in Trafalgar Square from 1971.


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  • By: Dr. X Mon, 06 Jul 2009 12:00:29

    It’s true about some of the early bomb attacks on things like water installations being loyalist provocations. It’s mentioned in that book Loyalists, by Peter Taylor.

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 06 Jul 2009 12:38:51

    Yeah. I got the feeling they thought that was opponents of the union though. There were a number of mistakes or omissions in it. For example, no mention of the Republican Clubs or CP being in the civil rights movement from the start.

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  • By: Starkadder Mon, 06 Jul 2009 15:06:39

    Is being against the PIRA so unusual for a leftist group,though? Groups like Militant were against the IRA’s campaign, ISTR.

    They’re quite pro-Connolly as well. The copy of
    “Red Patriot” in the Left Archive is critical of Connolly on some
    aspects, such as his support for Germany in WWI.

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  • By: Maddog Wilson Mon, 06 Jul 2009 16:40:30

    At that time i was in the CPGB though having family members in the Official movement, i was never quite comfortable with their stance on the North. Reg was regarded by most people in the CPGB as a sort of lost son, who had gone AWOL. I am not being patronising but he was seen as a well meaning person who had gone the wrong way, a bit like the Paul McCartney song ‘ Give Ireland Back To The Irish’.

    On Starkadders point yes Reg was right, innocent people were getting killed or liberated from their limbs by PIRA on the mainland. Other innocent people were getting banged up by the Brits. Any one of Irish descent who had any political connections with organisations like the Clann had to watch out.

    On another note, i see that wanker Steve Bundred, Livingstones mate from his Provo supporting days has been calling for Public Sector pay cuts in the Observer. Funny how they all turn collaborator in the end.

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  • By: splinteredsunrise Mon, 06 Jul 2009 20:21:10

    Jim is right, there were/are Maoists and Maoists. The standard divide in American or Europe would have been between the 1968-era campus Maoists on the one hand, and on the other groups like Progressive Labor who had some sort of CP background and more of an affinity with pre-1956 Stalinism.

    And yet in Ireland, we got the Internationalists and the BICO. Lucky us! Did the Internationalists have a prehistory at all? I suppose it would be a matter of Bains’ biography – he was from the Punjab which was always a bit of a CPI stronghold. All I remember is that the Irish section all seemed to be British expats at Trinity.

    Mind you, there are still some decent Maoists knocking about. I’ve known folks in the Norwegian AKP and the German MLPD, and though I didn’t agree with them they were thoroughly sane, and more interested in being exemplary activists than sectist ideologues. In fact, my copy of the Red Book is an MLPD edition…

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  • By: EWI Tue, 07 Jul 2009 21:16:19

    A few words about Reg Birch and the CPB (M-L). This was not as it happens the sister party of the Communist Party of Ireland (M-L). The latter were aligned with the Communist Party of England (M-L), later the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (M-L). They were one of Hardial Bains progeny. It’s important not to confuse them either with the Communist Party of Great Britain, (M-L), a much more recent creation dating from 2004 which apparently has a number of refugees from Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (and which we’ve mentioned previously). The genesis of the CPB (M-L) was in a split in 1968 led by longtime CPGB member Reg Birch to a Maoist position. With that sort of provenance one might expect it to take lines similar to the CPE (M-L), which indeed it did, being yet another cheerleader of Albania.

    F*ck me. People’e Judean Front, much?

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 08 Jul 2009 07:11:37

    You haven’t heard the half of it EWI, not the half of it! 🙂

    splintered, I think the TCD connection was central. Bains must have been a remarkable speaker because even a decade or more after he left the seeds of what he created were still there (I didn’t go there, but at their freshers week I’d knock down there to join their SF society for its really not bad library and lo and behold there would be the CPI (M-L) in all its glory, and they weren’t all ex-pats by then. And amazingly they actually spread roots into the institution I went to whcih was a way up the road).

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Wed, 08 Jul 2009 08:25:41

    The last I heard of Bains is a letter defednding his brother who was in trouble in India? I don’t think the brother was a Maoist.
    There is a difference between opposing the militarism of the Provos and defending the struggle for national liberation. I recognise that the Provos to put it a bit simply “arose oput of the ashes of Bombay St.”.
    The danger in obsessing about the Provos is that you ignore the real enemny which is Imperialism.The Officials did this and to a degree so di Miliatant with it equals too sign between the Republicans and Loyalists.
    Behans famous distinction between the terrorist with the big bomb.
    The CPGB and the local CP are closet republicans. To afraid to risk their trade union assets by taking a stand on anything controversial.
    “Funny how they all turn collaborator in the end.”
    Many but not all do. Capitalism wastes people and destroys morale.I prefer to remember what good people do along the way if possible.
    For what it is worth gave up on Livingstone when he settled for municipal socialism.

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  • By: Maddog Wilson Wed, 08 Jul 2009 09:49:05

    What i found offensive at the time, the early 80,s was the assumption by Livingstone and his pals notably Bundred that all Irish people in the U.K. supported the Provos. This was a cynical electoral ploy based on the then fashionable ‘ Rainbow Coalition’ idea which had been imported from the States, the assumption being that you could divide people up into Racial and Sexual groups who would then vote Labour if you said the right things and handed out a few bob in grants. When Livingstone flew to his famous meeting in Dublin where Matt Merrigan spoke as well, The Irish Labour Party, Workers Party and The Democratic Socialist Party who all had TD’s at the time, which Sinn Fein did’nt, wrote to Livingstone protesting about his support for the Provos. As far as i’m aware the Letter remains unanswered. I think he was actually quite a good Mayor and redeemed himself somewhat in later years.

    As for Bundred, Todays Morning Star( Yes i still read it) states thats Bundreds salary as head of The Audit Commision as £248,000 plus £17,000 bonus and £34,000 in pension contributions in the year ending May 31 2008. I dont resent anyone earning good money, but thats taking the piss. Anyone got a revolver?

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  • By: Babeuf Wed, 08 Jul 2009 09:52:28

    “local CP are closet republicans.”

    I’m sorry, I’m certainly no closet Republican, but your criticisms of the organisation are very pertinent.

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  • By: Garibaldy Wed, 08 Jul 2009 10:08:46

    I’d agree that Jim’s description of the CPB and the CPI is too simplistic. There are certainly some who think the way he describes but also some who don’t. It’s not a straightforward case.

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  • By: Fergus D Wed, 08 Jul 2009 13:09:18

    I remember the CPBML from students days in England. They were all for “guerilla struggle” and “fight where you are ” (fair enough) but seemed largely economist in outlook. Apparently students were workers too so by “striking” we failed to produce our products (essays) in the same way as “real” workers. On the whole they seemed in their own small island for most things e.g. the Albania love affair! Then (this is the early 70’s) there was a Tory campaign in the National Union of Students against claimed NUS financial support for the Provos. There wasn’t any NUS support for the Provos as far as I know. So in my university the Tories put up a motion to the Union meeting attacking the Provos and demanding no financial support from student unions – a kind of “when did you stop beating your wife” motion. It attracted about 2000 students or more to the meeting rather than the ususal 200. For once the left acted together (the union exectutive was broad left/CP at the time but we had prettty much the full gamut in the student union, although small in numbers). I don’t recall if the Broad Left/CP spoke, but the Militant, SWP (IS as was) and CPBML did and perhaps an “anarchist”, and did a good job trying to outline the issues at stake in NI as they saw it. I remember the CPBML speaking well. It was a difficult meeting with a large very hostile element. I think we put an amendement forward, we weren’t arguing support for the Provos. The left lost the amendment, but overall I was impressed in the way the left could, on rare occasions, act together and have an impact on a sizeable minority of students. Of course the right tries to box you into a corner, but then the Provos campaign made that easy for them, it made it hard to debate about NI, Irish history, nationalism and class issues with a lot of people because you could be seen as “soft” or even supportive of terrorism.

    BTW – I didn’t speak at the meeting, I was a rather nervous first year.

    Anyway, CPBML were pretty ineffective on the UK student left. I wonder where they are now?

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen Linken « Entdinglichung Fri, 10 Jul 2009 09:47:58

    […] Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist): Ireland One Nation […]

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  • By: PJ Callan Mon, 13 Jul 2009 07:22:51

    Wonder no more,

    They’re here –

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 13 Jul 2009 07:40:49

    Thanks PJ.

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  • By: NollaigO Mon, 13 Jul 2009 10:12:32

    On sane and mad Maoists:

    Were there any sane Irish Maoist groups ? Yes! The Cork Workers Group [called Saor Éire for a brief period] was one.

    Where did the ICO stand in regard to Maoism? I agree with Jim Monaghan that they were more Stalinist than Maoist in the 1970s. They had a brief Maoist period in the 1960s but in the early 1970s realised that there were too many lacunae in regarding Mao as the apostolic successor of Stalin:
    The Purdie pamphlet, which CLR featured recently in the Left Archives, also has some interesting observations on ICO/BICO and Maoism at that period.

    The CPB(ML) just about qualified as a sane Maoist group. It is important to remember that the above pamphlet was written during the height of the Provo bombing campaign in London. In 1971/1972 they were active suppporters of the Anti Internment League (AIL) and played a positive role. I remember the CPB (M-L) Rally in Trafalgar Square in 1971 to which WbS refers. It was not a well supported rally. While they invited other political organisations supporting the AIL to participate in the rally, the other groups declined as they did not support the general politics of the CPB (M-L). Kate Hoey, an active AIL member, was very upset by this approach and felt that the other groups were being sectarian!

    Mad Maoists ?
    The Internationalists took pride of place here but they had a serious rival – The Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front (IIRC). This group appeared on the London Irish political scene in 1969/1970 before disappearing within a couple of years. They were led by a man called Davoren (again IIRC) who,according to reports, had been deported from South Africa for trade union activities. Their key political message was : Irish political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. . I saw this message propagated to distruction at a London meeting in early 1970: Tribune held a meeting on Ireland. The platform speakers were Bernadette Devlin, Justin Keating and Michael Foot and many hundreds attended. After the platform speechs, the meeting was thrown open to contributions from the audience. Mr Davoren took the floor. The platform speakers were roundly denounced for their failure. They had not told the meeting about the instrument of liberation of the Irish people! In fact, said Davoren, reaching a crescendo ” Nobody has told the meeting what is the instrument of the Irish people. Nobody has had the courage to tell the meeting that Irish political power…. At this point one of Davoren’s supporters could contain himself no longer and started shouting ” The gun! The gun! The gun!” . Audience collapses in laughter!
    Davoren also produced a glossy, multicoloured paper with large centre spreads glorifying the Moscow Trials and exposing the Trotskyite fascists and, of course, regularly proclaiming that Irish political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. The journal also had a column ” Services to Readers”. Its most eye catching service was as follows: ” Is you landlord threatening you or giving you a hard time? Just call the INLSF. We will send round a team of no-nonsense workers who will impress on him your rights”. Ní fheicimid a leithead arís! Buíocas..!

    The Internationalists:
    You are too soft on them WbS! They were a classical sectarian cult organisation. Some time ago on this blog, Fintan Lane graphically described their antics in Cork in the 1980s. I also recalled their intervention at a fish-in. I remember being denounced as a liberal for joining the UCC Republican Club by one of their Cork members, now a leading clinical psychologist ! She’d have plenty of case studies for her work from those days ! Their Cork branch collapsed for a period in the early 1970s when one of the commissars came down from Trinity and instructed the comrades to organise Peasant Leagues to overthrow the Irish Landlord Class! I remember Bains coming to UCC in early 1968. He spoke at a public meeting. One of the students discovered some weeks later that the major part of his speech was a straight “lift” from a Mao essay with ” Cork” being substituted for “Hunan”. By then Bains had wrecked the UCC branch of the Labour Party which was really more of left wing forum than a straight Labour party branch. I believe that Bains died in the late 1990s.

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  • By: Maddog Wilson Mon, 13 Jul 2009 12:37:32


    Is that Kate Hoey, now the MP for Vauxhall?

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  • By: NollaigO Mon, 13 Jul 2009 12:45:54

    The same! At the time an IMG member.

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  • By: NollaigO Mon, 13 Jul 2009 12:51:20

    In reply to Maddog Wilson.

    In response to your post # 20, I should have mentioned that I posted on Kate Hoey over a year ago:

    The Mayor of London…

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  • By: Maddog Wilson Mon, 13 Jul 2009 15:06:55


    Thanks for that, an interesting history of Kate.

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