I had completely forgotten about this until this thread went up, but the first political organisation I joined was not the WP but the Celtic League. As a teenager with leftish tendencies but coming from an Irish speaking family with strong cultural/political nationalist roots, I was attracted to the Celtic solidarity message of that alliance of small, largely leftist, nationalist groups from the Celtic countries. They had very strong anti-nuclear position cos of Carnsore, Sellafield and similar issue in Brittany.
By the time I was around 18 though, I was heading rapidly for stickidom and shedding the nationalism at speed. For some reason, I thought my new comrades might find out my shameful secret so, rather than just not renewing my subscription, I sent a formal letter of resignation to the poor Celtic League declaring my allegiance to socialism and my renunciation of nationalism. And I soon bought into Smullen’s “nuclear power station in every county” line as well! Maybe I should have stayed in the Celtic League :)
At one of the new members classes I attended in Gardiner Place when I joined the WP in 1982, a fella said something along the lines of “Hitler wasn’t all bad … jobs, autobahns etc.” Perhaps surprisingly, the full-timer who was giving the class, dealt with it in a calm, reasoned way – briefly explaining the nature of fascism, the Holocaust etc.
In a strange way, it illustrated a good point about the WP at the time: it wasn’t just attracting pre-cooked lefties but also your average Josephine/Joe with all the contradictory opinions that people tend to have.
In the late 80s the new members classes were devolved to the constituencies. In Dun Laoghaire that really was the end of them – new recruits got one visit from a party activist to give them the basic info, but even that soon stopped. This change facilitated (but did not cause) an influx of, mainly middle class, opportunists who would later play a key role in DL. Their politics was basically slightly leftish liberalism, their main attraction to the WP was its public reps reputation as competent, it’s anti-provo stance and it’s solid record on the “social issues” such as divorce etc. In hindsight, I can see that a primary attraction for them was also the growing prospect of Gilmore winning a Dail seat bringing power and influence at least locally.