Catalyst, No. 2
Organisation: Socialist Alternative
Publication: Catalyst [SA]
Issue:Number 2
January '03
Type:Publication Issue
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: Shannon Airport (Military Use) Iraq War, 2003

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

16th April 2012

For this donation to the Archive many thanks to Alan Mac Simoin [and good to mention again too the excellent WSM Archive taking shape here  which has significant volume of Irish anarchist related materials].

Here’s an interesting document from Socialist Alternative [a name also used at times elsewhere including the UK by the CWI], a group that had been part of the SWP previously. It is an intriguing blend of anarchism, direct action and Leninist thinking. Note the listing under ‘Events and Demos’ of the Anarchist Federation Conference in Belfast which notes ‘talks will be held on topics such as autonomist Marxism and council communism’.

And in the text, and in particular on the issue of squatting the document notes ‘One of the problems for those trying to organise campaigns outside of the ‘twin towers’ of the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party, will be aware that one fo the difficulties faced is a lack of resources and facilities to kick-start. The creation of such an autonomous zone in Dublin would greatly facilitate the development of campaigns, providing education resources for the activist community and general public and a centre for organisation.’

The contents is fairly varied, albeit the political orientation is not clearly described. There are pieces on Carrickmines Castle, sport for direct action at Shannon - where a large protest had been held in January of 2003, and descriptions of various marches against the Iraq War world wide. This draws connections between ‘cutbacks at home [in Ireland] and violence abroad’.

Any further information on the development of this formation would be very welcome.


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  • By: admin Mon, 16 Apr 2012 04:21:33

    The ‘Socialist Alternative’ who produced Catalyst were a group of UCD students who split from the SWP. A majority went on to join WSM, a few joined the ISN.

    A detailed statement on the split from the SWP be found at

    Links to editions 1 & 3 of Catalyst can be found at

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 16 Apr 2012 06:18:01

    In reply to admin.

    Thanks a million, duly amended post above to reflect that.

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  • By: NollaigO Mon, 16 Apr 2012 07:48:22

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    Facebook still has “…[splinter from SWP-Belfast]…” @ 08.48

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  • By: e Mon, 16 Apr 2012 12:54:25

    If I remember correctly, this group was a real mixed bag of people and ideas, half of the fun of it I guess. One of their number, a certain Donal O’Liathain, when onto join the Labour Party for example..

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 16 Apr 2012 12:56:47

    Could there be 2 of the same name. I remember something of 2 Belfast splits. One called SA.

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  • By: Ed Mon, 16 Apr 2012 14:50:02

    Funny seeing this, don’t think I’ve seen it since 2003.

    As I recall, there have been two cases of SWP members in Belfast leaving, or being pushed out, or a combination of the two, in the last decade or so. The first group called themselves International Socialists (Belfast) I think and later merged with Socialist Democracy; the second group I’m not sure of, I had heard that they were linking up with the group established by John Rees and Lindsay German in Britain but that could be wrong. Don’t think either group called themselves Socialist Alternative.

    Not so much of a mixed bag, really (having been one of those involved) – Donal ended up in the Labour Party for a while yes, he now lives up north; all the rest either joined the WSM or the ISN. About as much variety as you’d probably get if you took any student branch of a far-left group and tracked them for a few years, I’d imagine.

    A minor correction to Alan’s summary above, I don’t really think there’s any ‘Leninist thinking’ in evidence in ‘Catalyst’, Marxist yeah but Leninist no. Don’t think any of the people involved would have described themselves as Leninists, certainly not the way Leninism is defined by the SWP or SP. Also, while it was an ‘SWP splinter group’, none of the people involved had been members of the SWP for very long (less than two years tops) so they were never really dedicated Cliffites at any time (unlike, say, the Rees-German group, or probably some of the people mentioned in Belfast). Once you reject orthodox Trotskyism and still want to remain on the hard left, the choice is basically between anarchism and a more libertarian version of Marxism, which is where people ended up. There were already groups with those politics on the scene so SA disbanded after a couple of years and people went their separate ways towards the WSM and ISN.

    SA did quite a lot of work, mostly in UCD, while it was up and running; members would have been very active in the Campaign for Free Education, which organised some strong anti-fees protests in 2002-03, and led to UCD having a left-wing leadership in the Students’ Union for a couple of years (sorely missed now that we have USI’s Fianna Fail leadership calling for the scrapping of the Croke Park agreement and other such delights). Also a lot of anti-war activism, like everyone else on the left around that time, and I remember UCD being unique at the time of the second Nice referendum, in that 90% of the campaign material on campus came either from Fianna Fail or from Libertarians Against Nice, a campaign front that SA had joined up with.

    Looking back on it there was quite a lively scene in UCD for a few years and SA made a contribution to that, along with others – I see people who were around then active in most left campaigns that are going on today, household charge, Rossport, Residents Against Racism etc.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 16 Apr 2012 17:29:34

    In reply to Ed.

    Sorry, just to be clear all errors are my own, not Alan’s. I wrote the above. I’m trying to work out why I thought it was Leninist, but it’s a while since I read and wrote the piece.

    Thanks to all of you, particularly admin, e and Ed, for the information, it’s really appreciated.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 16 Apr 2012 17:30:08

    In reply to NollaigO.

    Is there a way of reworking a Facebook post?

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 16 Apr 2012 18:34:10

    In reply to Ed.

    Hi Ed,

    Were there more than the five people I remember active in Socialist Alternative? And did they end up in 2 in the ISN, 2 in the WSM and 1 in Labour?

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  • By: Admin Mon, 16 Apr 2012 19:11:55

    In reply to Mark P.

    Out of the 5 UCD SWSS Branch Committee members hat split, 3 went on to join WSM, 1 joined the ISN, and 1 joined Labour.

    There were a handful of others who joined SA, but they probably never had more than 10 active members. A couple of those other members joined WSM, 1 joined ISN, and a few never joined any other organisation (AFAIK).

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  • By: Ed Tue, 17 Apr 2012 10:55:57

    In reply to Admin.

    Yeah that’d be about right, 10 or so altogether – thinking back now, there were a few people who said they wanted to join SA but in practice that probably amounted to coming to a couple of meetings, we were all so busy with stuff like the CFE and the anti-war movement we didn’t do that much activity that was specifically SA activity. A couple of others would have been involved on a more regular basis, apart from the original members.

    In hindsight we probably should have set it up as a ‘Socialist Society’ or something like that with a range of viewpoints (I think there was something along those lines in Trinity in the 90s); we started out with the idea of having a group with a defined programme but it turned out there were a couple of distinct views of what that should be, some more anarchist, some more Marxist. For example if the ULA had been around then I think some would have been in favour of joining it, others probably not.

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  • By: The Weekly Archive Worker … towards the Daily Archive Worker? « Entdinglichung Thu, 19 Apr 2012 08:35:06

    […] – Socialist Alternative: Catalyst, Nr. 2, Januar 2003 […]

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  • By: Anarchists- who we are and what we are up to-public meeting in Belfast « seachranaidhe1 Thu, 10 May 2012 15:03:06

    […] Left Archive: Catalyst – Socialist Alternative [splinter from SWP – Belfast], 2003 ( […]

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