Red Action, No. 68
Organisation: Red Action [Britain]
Publication: Red Action
Issue:Number 68
Summer 1994
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

12th November 2012

Recently Red Action posted much of their archive online,  and this can be accessed here. That includes the above document, but since this was already acquired for the Archive and scanned in it seemed appropriate to include at least one example of the output of the formation (and as it happens we’ve been promised some more documents in the future with a specifically Irish orientation).

Red Action  appeared in 1981 when members were expelled from the Socialist Workers Party for squadist activities. Consequently in outlook it positioned itself as an self-avowedly forceful response to the threat of fascism and racism as well as cleaving to a strongly working class centred position. In the 1980s it joined the RCP led Red Front (as can be seen in this document from the RCP in the Archive). Interestingly it transitioned into community based politics in the late 1990s and on into the 2000s, and former members were heavily involved in the Independent Working Class Association  which went on to win council seats and only relatively recently became inoperative.

This document is of particular interest because while it demonstrates all the political approaches outlined above it furthermore relates to one key aspect of Red Action, that being an strong identification with Irish Republicanism - it is notable that in other documents available on the Red Action site Thomas ‘Ta’ Power of the IRSP,  later assassinated by the IPLO, is quoted. The cover story notes that Patrick Hayes, an English born member of a PIRA active service unit, imprisoned for a short bombing campaign in England in the early 1990s, was a former long standing member of Red Action (for more on this see this  from the UK Independent which gives a subjective but interesting overview).

As the editorial accompanying Haye’s statement at the Old Bailey on his imprisonment notes:

As an organisation, Red Action has from the outset supported the right of the Irish to bear arms in principle and supported the military campaign as a TACTIC. Where we see a synthesis between republicanism and revolution Trotskyism seeks only contradictions, and so while paying lip service to the principle of self-determination the middle class left has with a few exceptions been an unswerving critic of its implementation.

It continues:

Of course no one in Red Action knew when, or precisely why, Patrick Hayes took the decision to join the IRA, but from his own testimony it is clear that he regards support for the military campaign and taking part in it more a matter of emphasis than some ‘quantum leap’. Pat never made the media inspired ‘graduation from being a weekend radical to becoming an IRA volunteer’. As in the case of Portinari [a Loyalist gunrunner] the explanation is quite simple. He never was a weekend radical. He is, and always was in whatever capacity a revolutionary.

In some respects these quotes also offer an insight into other aspects of Red Action, namely a strongly critical view of other contemporary further left formations, particularly those with a Trotskyist orientation - albeit it itself came from a Trotskyist heritage. It also held a strongly working class position that saw itself as deeply at odds with the middle class both in class and political forms or in its analysis that other further left formations were distorted by that class.

This combative stance is exemplified by a number of articles in the document on Trotskyism, including ‘Trotskyism’ with No Illusions which lambastes both the British Labour Party and ‘the Trotskyite Left [who] without exception line up with the bureaucracy in defence of the status quo, [whereas] we stand with the working class against the bureaucracy’ and within the working class; with the anti-racists against the racists.’. There is also an article which takes as its starting point the then recently published final edition of the SWP’s Tony Cliff’s final volume of his biography of Trotsky which is sub-titled ‘The Real History of the Fourth International’.

The emphasis on Irish Republicanism is evidenced throughout the text with highly critical articles on the Troops Out movement (and which is also in passing highly critical of the RCP) and a page devoted to “Dispatches from a war zone” and which in this instance deals with informers and pro-British agents.

There’s also a piece under the heading ‘Beyond the Pale’ for Red Action in Ireland, complete with PO Box. The accompanying article, ‘Guns, Drugs & The Community’, outlines the history of the development of the drugs issue in working class Dublin and how Concerned Parents Against Drugs (CPAD) became pivotal in ‘the fight against drugs’. The article notes that ‘The Left’s attitude to this genuine instance of working class people taking control of their lives has also been pathetic. From the SWM’s denunciation of CPAD as vigilantes, to the serious serious damage done to the anti-drugs campaign by the Workers’ Party’s allegations of addicts being kept against their will in France, the left in Dublin has been a hindrance to the CPAD. Sinn Féin are the only group on the left who can claim any credibility from the fight against the drug pushers. Contrary to the allegations of SF infiltration of CPAD, the SF activists actually belonged to the working class communities under threat and had every right ton involve themselves in the fight against drugs’.

In the latter there is the following reference: CPAD wants addicts to be sent to treatment centres where they might actually have a chance to get off drugs. CPAD have in the past sent addicts to the Le Patriarche centre in France but a Workers Party created controversy and lack of resources meant this could not be continued’.

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  • By: Branno's ultra-left t-shirt Thu, 15 Nov 2012 20:20:55

    That was a different bombing to the one that Hayes and Taylor were jailed for in 1994.

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: WorldbyStorm Thu, 15 Nov 2012 20:54:55

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    Good, that’s what I thought D initially – though for one moment a few comments back I was beginning to think you actually meant the CWI – which is why I asked the question. But that’s kind of my point, wouldn’t Class War be deeply non-statist? Whereas the IRSP would seem to me to cleave to a very traditional sort of Marxist approach, Leninist really.

    Ta Power was interesting, no question about it, but it seems to me to be a reworking and updating of of S.Costello’s thinking for the 1980s and by that stage given all the IRSP had been through I don’t know was it possible for them to refashion themselves into something commanding the sort of working class support that was necessary (or another way of looking at it is that SF had got there first).

    I recently reread Deadly Divisions and it struck me that a smaller org like IRSP was always going to be at a disadvantage in relation to a broader one like SF which could tilt ideologically a variety of ways (and was broad enough to accommodate say the Marxists from the former PD who joined in the 1980s and much more ‘traditional’ for want of a better word people. (Btw and on a tangent one interesting thing that struck me recently, there’s been some making a lot of noise about Éire Nua and it’s supposed ‘radicalism’ seemingly oblivious to the fact that that was discarded very consciously by the Adams led grouping and has no part to play as an actual ideological influence on SF in the contemporary era).

    Re Congress 86, if you look in the Archive you’ll find this which is linked IIRC

    BTW, ironically enough – name the one group with long antecedents on the Republican side that has never decommissioned, at least not officially (and if it had under the GFA terms it would have to have announced it did so).

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Thu, 15 Nov 2012 22:34:50

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  • By: D Thu, 15 Nov 2012 22:47:50

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    Official IRA have never decommisioned. Sorry just had to answer that one quickly.

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  • By: Michael Carley Fri, 16 Nov 2012 00:15:51

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Fri, 16 Nov 2012 08:16:37

    In reply to Michael Carley.

    Ah, but not quite. That was the ORM, Official Republican Movement, which was a splinter from the WP. They did indeed use the OIRA name, but not the same organisation.

    Official Republican Movement Statement on Decommissioning

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  • By: Michael Carley Fri, 16 Nov 2012 10:15:06

    In reply to Michael Carley.

    So there’s an Official Official and a Provisional Official?

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  • By: Tony Sun, 18 Nov 2012 12:49:17

    Hayes was a leading member Anti-Fascist Action at the time. I think he actually could have been London AFA organiser?

    Eitherway, for all of his AFA comrades around the country and in London, the first they heard of Hayes involvement with the PIRA was news reports of his arrest.

    Left everyone a bit shocked, to say the least, from what I gather.

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  • By: ejh Sun, 18 Nov 2012 13:06:57

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    I always found with Red Action, as with the IWCA, that they spent far too much time screaming terms like “middle-class”, “social worker” and “Guardian-reading” at the rest of the left to be particularly attractive. And in fact they resmbled the worst aspects of the far-left groups they reckoned they were nothing like, in their extreme sectarianism and unwillingness to accept that anybody was legitimate save themselves. This tended to drown out anything useful they had to say about, for instance, the importance of real bread-and-butter issues.

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  • By: afaarchive Mon, 19 Nov 2012 17:33:42

    More info on Red Action and Anti-Fascist Action can be viewed on the Anti-Fascist Archive (

    There are some posts relating to the two Red Action members who were arrested for Irish republican terrorism, one for the Provisional IRA and one for the INLA.

    Jan Taylor was not a member of Red Action.

    Please see the following posts:

    On the latter link see the 1993 Guardian article: INLA Would be Bombers go to Jail.

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  • By: Left Archive: Red Action, Issue No. 68, Summer 1994 – REPOST « Anti-Fascist Archive Mon, 19 Nov 2012 18:36:30

    […] The following article is a re-post from Cedar Lounge Revolution […]

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  • By: Jaybob Thu, 22 Nov 2012 23:03:17

    [branno is right, not relevant] wbs

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  • By: afaarchive Thu, 22 Nov 2012 23:11:36

    In reply to Jaybob.

    ^Sounds like unreliable LinkedIn google hit

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  • By: Branno's ultra-left t-shirt Thu, 22 Nov 2012 23:30:45

    In reply to Jaybob.

    That’s nobodies business moderator

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Fri, 23 Nov 2012 07:50:52

    In reply to Branno’s ultra-left t-shirt.

    afaarchive, just to say thanks for that information. Genuinely appreciated.

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  • By: afaarchive Fri, 23 Nov 2012 17:26:38

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    No problem!

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  • By: A Sun, 11 Aug 2013 18:45:57

    In reply to Joe.

    I was an activist in AFA at the time and this timeline is correct. The cops put out CCTV footage of the two volunteers and appealed for public help in identifying them.

    I was also at PH’s coming home party after GFA prisoner release at an Irish boozer in Islington. Late in the evening the publican put on some rebel music… oblivious to who or what the party was for 🙂

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Sun, 11 Aug 2013 19:26:54

    In reply to A.

    Ain’t that aways the way?

    A genuinely interesting history and thanks for adding o it.

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  • By: Anon Mon, 27 Aug 2018 22:52:08

    I suspect you may be getting an up-surge in hits on your blog, purely because the well known UK journalist and broadcaster David Aaronovitch just tweeted a link to this blog-post.

    He made a somewhat provocative tweet yesterday regarding the current UK Labour party leader’s past associations, and got a furious reaction (HOW DARE YOU MAKE INSINUATIONS ABOUT OUR BELOVED LEADER!!!!, etc) but it does seem that (as he asserted) Red Action did indeed have connections to PIRA.

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  • By: Starkadder Mon, 27 Aug 2018 23:47:21

    In reply to Anon.

    According to the Belfast Telegraph, Corbyn was investigated by
    police over connections to Red Action. The article says JC spoke at least three RA meetings, but there’s no evidence Corbyn was involved in illegal activity.

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