International Socialism, No. 51
Organisation: International Socialists [UK]
Publication: International Socialism
Issue:Number 51
April-June 1972
Contributors: Info
Paul Gerhardt, Eamonn McCann, John Palmer, Brian Trench
Collection:The British Left on Ireland
Type:Publication Issue
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: Irish Communist Organisation

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

2nd May 2011

This is an handsome document, issued by the International Socialists  in Britain, predecessors of the SWP [UK], in 1972, is a special issue with a focus on Ireland.

The range of contributors is striking, from amongst others Eamonn McCann, John Palmer and Brian Trench. McCann considers ‘After 5th October 1968’, Palmer ‘The Gombeen Republic’ and Trench ‘The Two Nations Fallacy’ and there is ‘A factual survey’ of the Six Counties by Paul Gerhardt.

The article by Brian Trench is, perhaps, of particular interest in that it engages directly with the Irish Communist Organisation which it describes as a ‘reactionary Stalinist sect’. And it notes that ‘this group moved within the course of one year from describing Paisleyites as fascists to seeing them as the organised expression of legitimate Protestant national demands’.

It further argues that ‘in adopting this position, the ICO, and others who have since followed them, condemned themselves to inactivity. While state forces attacked the opponents of the Unionist regime, and the nationalist population in general, the advocates of the ‘two nations’ theory were so concerned with distancing themselves from supposed Catholic nationalist desires to oppress the Protestants, that they were unable to oppose the actual repression!’

The Eamonn McCann piece has an interesting analysis on some of the reasons for the emergence of the Provisionals, one of which it ascribes to the Left being ‘still imprisoned within the sectarian strait jacket, forced to operate almost excluseively within the Catholic community but unable to give any clear lead to the Catholic masses… And unwilling to cause a split in the [Defence Committee] barricaded area [in Derry] and doubtful about the extent of its own support, it never seriously attempted to wrest leadership from the moderates’.

And continues:

The raging bitterness of the Catholics in Belfast especially after the August days was certain sooner or later to swamp Fitt and Hume. Emotions were too strong to be contained for long within the thin shell of timid respectability. The Provisionals filled the vacuum created by the effective absence of the left and the irrelevance of the right.

This last point is of some interest, given the concentration in many accounts of the period on the left and less focus on right and centre right forces and the part they played.

The Palmer piece is also of interest as it engages with the nature of British capital in the Irish economy.

And it notes that “The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that between a third and a half of all manufacturing concerns are either controlled or owned outright by British firms. Perhaps 70 per cent of the 100 largest companies in the Twenty-six counties are British controlled in part or entirely.”

In 1971 profits totalling £21 millions - 60 per cent of total profits of all publicly quoted companies - were pocketed by British investors.

Also published is the Programme of the Socialist Workers Movement. This is headlined as follows:

An important development in Irish Politics is the appearance of the Socialist Workers Movement, a marxist organisation based largely in the republic but with connections in the six counties.

It’s a fascinating document, not least because of the more contemporary echoes. Consider by way of example a review by one Chris Hitchens, or the list of names on the editorial board. Also note the front cover, a painting by Robert Ballagh and the short and sympathetic piece on the Underground Press which examines Oz, Time Out and IT magazines.

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  • By: Starkadder Mon, 02 May 2011 20:48:48

    Interesting selection of book reviews there;
    Gramsci, Mailer and Charles Reich (who seemed to
    vanish from the political radar after the end of
    the hippie era).

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 02 May 2011 20:54:16

    In reply to Starkadder.

    That’s very true. I’d more or less forgotten myself about Reich.

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 02 May 2011 20:54:30

    I thoroughly enjoyed the Gramsci review in particular. McCann’s piece was interesting too in the extent to which he was criticising himself and the people he worked in cooperation with at the time. It wasn’t clear to me whether he was arguing that a stronger line on the national question would have been necessary or not, but perhaps I didn’t read it closely enough.

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  • By: Terry McDermott Tue, 03 May 2011 09:24:07

    The McCann and Trench pieces are very good. The IS had a reputation for being thoughtful. At that stage they also had an industrial base that would be the envy of the far-left today.

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Tue, 03 May 2011 10:42:04

    […] * International Socialists (IS): International Socialism 51, April-Juni 1972 […]

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  • By: Ken MacLeod Wed, 04 May 2011 10:21:53

    This was one of the first Marxist journals – in fact one of the first Marxist anything – I read. I was about 18 and didn’t know much, and it impressed me a great deal. It seemed to show not only that Marxism made sense, but also that it made sense of lots of things going on in the world.

    Looking at it again with four decades – and what decades! – of hindsight, it still does.

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  • By: Starkadder Wed, 04 May 2011 11:16:23

    In reply to Ken MacLeod.

    I agree, Ken. Even if you weren’t a Trotskyist,
    or indeed a Marxist, IS had great writers like
    Widgery and Paul Foot that were well worth

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