More history…

OVER at Dublin Opinion, Conor has dug up some a Communist Party of Ireland leaflet from 1941. Some of the rhetoric almost sounds like it could have been written today.

  • joeCanuck

    It’s not at all clear that there are two links beside eachu other. Suggest putting 1941 between Ireland and leaflet.

  • Reader

    Fascinating – and 3 months before Barbarossa, when black would suddenly become white.
    Any idea what they meant by the “blockade”?

  • Reader @ 02:34 PM:

    Any idea what they meant by the “blockade”?

    If you enlarge the text of the first-page .jpeg, you reach this penultimate paragraph:

    The Government says neutrality is menaced. This is true and although the Government is silent about the enemy who is menacing our country, we feel that it is in the interest of the Irish people to clearly realise that it is the same Power which has always subjected and divided our country — British imperialism — which now holds the country to ransom and is preparing to strike a military blow against us [end of paragraph: no full stop]

    Later, on the third column of the second page, this is repeated:

    Resistance to the policy of the Government is a duty on all who seek to preserve the country from the horrors of war, and the cold and starvation which the imperialist blockage is inflicting on the people.

    Thoughts on context of the document may follow.

  • Reader

    “…the cold and starvation which the imperialist blockage is inflicting on the people”
    That’s what was bothering me. GB certainly wanted food from Ireland. Ireland would have wanted coal, and tea and cigs, which would have had to arrive in a convoy, since Germany wasn’t going to let stuff flow into unoccupied Europe.
    I know there were rows about convoys and escorts and shipping between the UK and the Free State, but were the CPI really that keen to pin all the blame for shortages on the Brits? (until Barbarossa)

  • Reader @ 03:23 PM:

    Yes: I’m currently trying to work out the context of this document. So, random first thoughts …

    As you noted, it pre-dates Barbarossa. That means the CPI were still following the Moscow line. It’s the aftermath of the Winter War: Britain and France supplied Finland against the Soviet invasion of 30 November 1939. The Moscow peace treaty (12 March 1940) was forced on the Finns: although the British and French intended an expeditionary force, Norwegian and Swedish opposition prevented intervention.

    Barbarossa was terminal for the CPI. The Comintern line represented the new situation as “democracy” versus Fascist. (No! you’re not allowed to snort at Stalin, the democrat. Absolutely not!) Which pre-supposed the CPI (which had leading members interned in the Curragh) should also do cart-wheels:

    * support the Red Army! (that’s OK);
    * agitate for British access to the treaty ports (err … with the CPI’s strong ex-IRA links … no.)

    In that dilemma, the Dublin branch of the CPI (10 July 1941) voted itself into extinction. Its members entered the Labour Party (and would later, defenestrated by William O’Brien and the ITGWU faction, re-materialise as the WPI). North of the border, the CPNI maintained a separate existence, publishing its manifesto (4 Oct 1941):

    A victory for the Soviet Union and its allies among the enslaved nations of the Continent, including Germany and the Anglo-American peoples, would be a triumph for the cause of national liberty everywhere and would advance the movement for Ireland’s complete freedom.

    Let no section of Irish opinion be deceived into harbouring any other ideas. The cause of Irish freedom stands or fails with the cause of the Soviet Union and the world forces of Labour and Democracy allied with it.

    For the next quarter-of-a-century Irish communism was also partitioned.

  • Framer

    “For the next quarter-of-a-century Irish communism was also partitioned.”

    Partitioned, but after the huge war-time recruitment that the party did of progressive Protestants (see the 1945 Stormont election results) it rapidly reverted to an anti-imperialist i.e. nationalist position.

    This was effectively kept secret from supporters especially in the trade unions, enabling the party in the absence of Labour, to stymie progressive unionism.

    The result in the unions was ‘no politics please we’re communists’.

    Oddly the CPI and the CPSA are the only parties to survive the end of the Moscow line.

  • Framer @ 05:56 PM:

    The thread’s adrift already!

    I think you’ll find that the CPNI (surely some oxymoron in its own right?) went “unionist” early on. As early as 4 Oct 1941 the CPNI could declare:

    A victory for the Soviet Union and its allies among the enslaved nations of the Continent, including Germany and the Anglo-American peoples, would be a triumph for the cause of national liberty everywhere and would advance the movement for Ireland’s complete freedom.

    Let no section of Irish opinion be deceived into harbouring any other ideas. The cause of Irish freedom stands or fails with the cause of the Soviet Union and the world forces of Labour and Democracy allied with it.

    So much for conceits of national unity or the Workers’ Republic.

    Three factors account for that:

    1. Cominform went into abeyance during the war years. There was no positive “Party line” coming out of Moscow.

    2 For a brief wartime interim, the interests of the King Street gang and the protestant working-class of east Belfast coincided: both were committed to the short-term aims of the UK war-effort.

    3. CPNI was merely a branch office of King Street.

    There was a doctrinaire edge to that: Socialism in One Country. The problem was the definition of “country”, which was only partly aided by T.A.Jackson’s Ireland, Her Own of 1945. Jackson was enormously influential, well beyond and long after the faithful followers of King Street Stalinism.

    Jackson was able to ascribe the rise of nationalism to Parnell (was there really a “Parnellism”?), and partition to perfidious Albion: think twice, and either seems an over-simplistic “explanation”.

    The brief CPNI surge of 1945 mirrors the CPGB election of Willie Gallacher in West Fife and Phil Piratin in Mile End: either constituency has comparators with east Belfast. Yet it should be remembered that, down South, in 1946, Mick O’Riordan fought the Cork City by-election and took 11% of first preferences and third place (ahead of — wait for it! — Tom Barry).

    For a vignette, nowhere is the abject failed-development of a NI Left better illustrated than in the ubiquitous Harry Midgeley:

    * As a NILP councillor and Stormont MP, he was chairman of the CPI’s creature, the Belfast United Front (did it ever convene?), in 1933;
    * His sincere commitment to the Spanish Republic cost him dear: in 1938 the nationalists (and the Irish News) supported Francoist James Collins, split the vote, and Midgeley lost out to the Unionist.
    * By 1941 (the Willowfield by-election) Midgeley was back, and the Andrews government trembled.
    * Does anyone truly understand the feud that developed between Midgeley and Jack Beatty? If so history needs your input. It was enough for Midgeley to go rogue from NILP, and create his personal branch of Commonwealth Labour (a topic in itself).
    * With Brooke as NI PM, Midgeley was in the “coalition” cabinet, first as “Minister of Public Security”, then as Minister of Labour.
    * By 1947 Midgeley, having smashed a right hook into Beatty on the floor of the Stormont chamber, was an unabashed Ulster Unionist MP and Minister.

  • Framer

    Mick O’Riordan did not stand as a communist in Cork in 1946 but under the ‘Cork Socialist Party’ label.

    In the 1945 Stormont election in Bloomfield (yes Bloomfield) the result was –

    Herbert Dixon (Lord Glentoran) Ulster Unionist 9,995 63.3%

    William McCullough Communist Party (NI)
    5,802 36.7%

    Basically Jack Beattie was or appeared a nationalist while Midgley became increasingly unionist as he realised nationalism/republicanism was not progressive, as one does.

  • Framer @ 01:01 PM:

    Mick O’Riordan did not stand as a communist in Cork in 1946 but under the ‘Cork Socialist Party’ label.

    Well, that’s logical. After the CPI dissolved itself in 1941, there really wasn’t much of any formal communist group (except the close circle around the Review) until after 1948. The CPI didn’t reform for a further quarter-century.

    Even then the catalysts were:

    * TA Jackson and his Ireland, Her Own;


    * Norton taking the Labour Party into the First Coalition, which alienated enough of the Labour grass-rooters to coalesce into the Irish Workers’ League (formally founded in October 1948).

    Mick O’Riordan had been an International Brigader. I remember him well, at New Books in Pearse Street, and regularly polling about 320 votes in Dublin South-Central.

    He had been one of Neil Goold’s Connolly Group among the Curragh internees, until Perse Kelly, commandant of one of the IRA factions in the camp, sussed what was happening, sneaked to the priests, and had Goold whisked off prontissimo to Mountjoy.

    O’Riordan was into and expelled from the Labour Party in short order, stayed shy of the Dublin group producing the Review, and — as you say — ran his own socialist group in Cork. Apart from the 1946 by-election, he came close to taking a seat on Cork Corporation the previous year.

    Meanwhile, things quickly went from fair to bloody awful for the CPNI.

    Thanks for the figures for that extraordinary 1945 Bloomfield result. There were 28 contested constituencies: apart from McCullough, Betty Sinclair stood in the Cromac (which included the Markets) and Sylvester Maitland in West Down. So just three candidates (all in straight fights with Unionists) not only comfortably saved deposits but garnered 12,500 votes and 3½% of the total poll. Not at all bad.

    The CPNI manifesto title gives the game away: Let’s Build a New Ulster, and amounted to five demands:

    1. economic controls and central plannning;
    2. parity with the social reforms in Britain;
    3. relationship with Soviet Russia, union with Britain and the winning of the whole country to the camp of the democratic nations;
    4. electoral reform;
    5. a fair deal for servicemen demobilized into the peacetime economy.

    In other words: minimal demands and a soft-pedal on partition. The CPNI moniker was largely omitted from election materials.

    The 1945 election seems to have severely shaken the Unionists. This reflects the CPNI’s appeal to the protestant working class: the catholics were more likely to lean to Harry Diamond’s Republican Socialist Party, or go to NILP.

    The Unionists choked off any leftist threat with the 1949 Partition election (aided by the Dublin coalition’s leaving the Commonwealth by declaring the Republic, and, since the USSR was the first nation to recognise the RoI, further fuelling a “Red Scare”). With the exception of the Falls and Belfast Central (both, of course, with a strong catholic voter-base) even NILP was wiped out.

    I feel Framer @ 01:01 PM‘s predictable and casual dismissal does not fully comprehend the full vitriol that Midgeley felt for Beatty (and arguably vice-versa, antipathy for a self-evidently opportunist class-traitor).

    Midgeley was moving further and further right all the time. Even NILP had managed a more credible leftist stance after his departure. He wound up his personal vanity vehicle, Commonwealth Labour, and bought his way into the Unionist Party fold. There he was rewarded by the Ministry of Education, which became his platform for sectarian speeches on catholic education.

  • Framer

    “After the CPI dissolved itself in 1941, there really wasn’t much of any formal communist group (except the close circle around the Review) until after 1948.” – those that remained remained Moscow-liners taking discipline even if lying low.

    I think you forget the Anti-Partition League. It might have concerned Unionists.

    And indeed why are unionists always supposed to become moderates and then nationalists and condemned for not so doing, when in the late 1940s we were only a couple of years from the last IRA campaign and a couple of years before the next.

    I rather doubt the Soviet Union ‘recognised’ the Republic. The two countries did not have diplomatic relations. It may have welcomed it.

    Remind me of Midgley’s sectarian views on Catholic education Malcolm. Maybe he would have opposed the exemption from fair employment law for Catholic schoolteachers in his bigotry?

  • Framer @ 09:49 AM:

    Lest we forget:

    The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

    Trying to generate trite analogies between the ’40s and the Noughties (or wherever we are now) seems pointless and redundant.

    Three points:

    1. The Anti-Partition League of 1945-51 existed (pretty well entirely) inside the Six Counties. It was assuredly not a front for the CPNI or any other lefty group: by the later ’40s the catholic clergy were hot on anything that tinged even the palest pink.

    The League, and the voiced (but little more) support from down South, certainly perturbed the Unionists. Boy! oh boy! didn’t they make political capital out of it: especially when the League received election donations from the RoI. Let’s recognise that the League was a non-starter, and faded into obscurity pretty fast. In retrospect, if it hadn’t existed, the Unionist Party would happily have invented it.

    2. I can assure you that the USSR did indeed recognise the Republic, and was the first nation to do so. Doubtless Moscow intended to embarrass Britain. General feeling was that the recognition embarrassed Dublin far, far more.

    I was once assured by a Dublin politico that Britain beat the Soviet Union to it because George VI had sent a message of good wishes on 18 April 1949 (the anniversary of the easter Rising, the day the Republic and withdrawal from the Commonwealth were declared). A prime example of economical with the actualité, I feel.

    For the record, Ireland affirmed its stand-alone European status by being one of the ten signatories (alongside Britain) of the Statute of the Council of Europe (5 May 1949). That was some days before the Ireland Act received Royal Assent, after which Ireland, free and independent, properly existed in International Law and so was instantly recognised.

    3. Wouldn’t it be nice to believe Midgeley had some unshakable beliefs? Still, I’m not saying he was one of the full-time bigots, even if, especially in his later years, he was fully prepared to help them out when they were short-handed [© Michael Caine].

    He was into the Orange Order and the Royal Black Preceptory by 1948. He was on the management committee of Linfield FC by the early ’30s, and Club Chairman until his death. Make of that what you like.

    His papers and speeches are in PRONI. Less sanitized accounts are in the archives of the Belfast Press.

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow ,

    There was a chap name of Vipond (Trinity student) he may have been English? ) who stood for the CPI (North or South ?) against Enoch Powell in South Down at one time ‘ I wonder whatever became of him ?

    Sam Nolan used to regularly poll about 500 votes in Dublin Central and anybody who voted for him was according to the RC clergy automatically excommunicated 😉

    I believe at one election count Nolan’s votes were seen to be keeping pace with Vivion De Valeras’ when some count official did a random count of the 50 vote bundles and found that Nolans’ bundles contained 35 whereas De Valera’s had 75 thus skewing the count . Some leftist minded student ‘counters’ were removed from the count centre 😉


  • Framer

    Malcolm – I don’t see any “trite analogies between the ‘40s and the Noughties (or wherever we are now) seems pointless and redundant.”

    Actually the CPNI went onwards and upwards after 1960. They controlled the unions and kept the Labour Party out. They ran the NI Civil Rights Association although the Trots wrecked their strategy. The CPI/CPNI controlled the IRA for a decade. They now colonise the upper reaches of the quangocracy in NI.

    And we are supposed to believe the Anti-Partition League was a non-starter, and faded into obscurity pretty fast”. That means Unionists alone are expected to have the memory span of a goldfish; nationalists are allowed an 800-year memory.

    Anyway the League for all its brief life did a great deal of damage, particularly to NI Labour politics, was funded by the Irish government, was an all-party alliance run by, amongst others you may recall, Conor Cruise O’Brien in Dublin’s foreign affairs department.

    The League certainly gave succour and justification to the IRA’s 1956-62 border campaign. It started rumbling in the early 1950s with the Crystal gang and Saor Eire.

  • I would agree that the Anti-Partition League raised fears amongst the unionist population in the north. Not of course that unionist paranoia justifies the nature of the state in NI. The military realities alone demonstrate that the existence of the NI state was not threatened by the south, and the British made clear in the Ireland Act that the only way NI could go out of existence was with the consent of the majority within it.

    As for Framer’s account of the influence of the CP north and south in the 1960s, it’s fanciful and utterly hyperbolic. It certainly had influence in the unions, but never controlled them. They never ran the IRA – this is the fantasy of Ó Brádaigh and Mac Stíofáin. The IRA’s turn to the left built in traditions within republicanism, and was begun by the republican leadership. That was why people with a background in the British CP were invited to join to further the leadership’s pre-existing agenda. As for NICRA, the biggest organisation within it was the Republican Clubs, although they did operate in alliance with the CP in it.

    It’s a fairly fair point about ex-CP people in the quangocracy though.

  • Greenflag @ 12:50 PM:

    That’s David Vipond.

    For years the Board of TCD sternly resisted any kind of student representation: we were encouraged to see the three debating societies (Hist, Phil and Liz) as our channel. By the end of the ’60s (after my time) that was a line no longer defensible.

    So TCD got a “Students Representative Council”, which became a power-base for a clique which featured said Vipond. Behind Vipond was an Indian (post-grad? junior lecturer?) by the name of Bains. For convenience this lot were dubbed the “Maoists” or the “Internationalists”, but, Bains apart, the ideology was spread remarkably tissue-thin. Vipond stood on a CPI (Marxist-Leninist) ticket, not only against Powell but in at least one Irish local election.

    Bains, by the way, gets a walk-on part in John Stephenson’s essay, The Students are Revolting, in Trinity Tales. That piece gives one account of how the SRC rose to … err … “fame”.

    Above all they were not the Nolan-O’Riordan-Edwards Muscovites of the CPI, who (I think) still had “New Books” in Pearse Street (known to its select clientele as “the Red Shed”). So the Maoists had the rival “Progressive Books” in Essex Street.

    Now to try and recreate some history here.

    There’s no point one can easily say “in the beginning”, so let’s kick off with Michael McCreery’s lot. They left the CPGB to become the Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity (CDRCU). They saw eternal proletarian salvation in anything that didn’t come out of Moscow: the cult of personality was awarded (since Joe Stalin was no longer available) first to Mao Zedong, then (after China spat on Albania) to Enver Hoxha. Rumour has it that, after that god failed, it was Eternal President Kim Il-Sung who inherited the plinth.

    The CDRCU had an Irish connection in Corkman Brendan Clifford’s Irish Communist Organisation (which was also mainly London-based). I think Gerry Lawless had been in the CDRCU, and went off separately to generate his own little Trot world-conquest through the Irish Workers’ Group. Quite how they fit in I’m unsure, but two other names did have real significance: Dennis Dennehy was a moving spirit in DHAC, and Noel Jenkinson re-emerged to bomb Aldershot Barracks for the Stickies.

    Meanwhile, back to CPI(M-G). They came about because of a spectacular slanging match (I think it may have been connected with the Prague Spring and the subsequent invasion). Sometime later the splinter formed themselves as the CPI(M-L) with a guy called O’Hehir as frontman. Something useful did come out of all this: Tommy Graham, who edits the highly-useful History Ireland.

  • Greenflag

    Malcolm Redfellow ,

    Thanks for the history . BTW superb comment that i.e ‘After China spat on Albania 🙂 Nowadays

    Hard to imagine nowadays people in Dublin getting all het up about the ideological nuances between Stalin , Mao and Enver Hoxha .

    I seem to recall wandering in to the Essex St book store on one occasion and quickly wandering out . I had inadvertently intruded on an ideological haranguing match between two customers ? or even the staff . ?

    Their dedication to their respective ’causes’ was far and above more important to them than ‘customer’ service 😉 I left minus the little red book .

  • Framer

    Garibaldy – these facts are not hyperbolic:

    The chair of NICRA was Betty Sinclair, the secretary Edwina Stewart and treasurer Derek Peters all CPNI. Madge Davidson (CPNI) later ran it.

    The key trade unions were run or controlled by members of the CPNI (except the sheet metal workers), and if not CPNI proper, fellow travellers like John Freeman of the ATGWU, the most important union in Belfast. He dominated it with a rod of iron. No discussion of Labour politics was ever permitted or voted on by its members.

    Basically all the big industrial works’ unions like the shipyards or aircraft factory were run by the party, and the newer telephonic industries.

    CPNI stalwarts included Andy Barr, Joe Graham, Billy Somerset and Joe Bowers, not to mention the Morriseys, and Freeman’s successor. Sinclair chaired the Belfast Trades Council for decades.

    The emerging public sector unions followed suit discreetly (think of Terry Bruton in NIPSA or St Inez, not party as such and more nationalist).

    Nobody in Unison/NUPE were given the forms to contract-in to the political levy. The ATGWU took the money but never sent a penny to the Labour Party. It paid for delegations going in the summer to visit factories in Bulgaria etc.

  • Framer,

    Like I said, they were influential in NICRA but did not run it. They were elected to those positions with Republican Club votes. The Republican Clubs took a back seat so that the organisation could not be blackened with allegations of it being a front. In later years, the Republican Clubs took a more prominent role. Certainly the CP was prominent, but in alliance with others, not on its own.

    There were plenty of prominent people in the unions who were not connected to the CP. Billy Blease for example. And the Labour Party played an important role in securing the Stormont regime’s recognition of the NIC of the ICTU, as well as in early moves to put civil rights on the agenda. Again, the CP were prominent in the unions but to say they controlled them is a step too far. Not least because it is easy to spot the difference between the politics and actions of the NI trade unions and the proper Communist trade unions in Europe.

  • Framer @ 11:05 PM:

    There’s so much hysteria, so little that’s reliable, in that post, where to start? I mean, dearie me, the Shankill CAB as a revolutionary cell! Who’d a-thunk it!

    Well, what about a disclaimer? On the whole I have found the folk who stuck with the CP through thick and thin probably need their heads examined are actually quite decent. Many are motivated by altruistic idealism, and give time and effort to causes when too many others sit and wring hands. Who more so than Betty Sinclair? Perhaps that shining bastion of liberalism and democracy, Framer @ 11:05 PM, could find time to defend gaoling as the remedy for writing a newspaper article?

    Yet Framer @ 11:05 PM tells me that they are authoritarian and conniving (actually, that’s far more true of the Trots, and the sectarian fanatics, which was why Betty Sinclair pulled out of NICRA). And surely, Framer @ 11:05 PM, with his McCarthyite list, is an honourable man.

    Yet it’s the detail that lets him down.

    I cannot speak of all those names he rattles off, but at least a couple of them had as much to do with the CP as with the backside of the moon. Yet Framer @ 11:05 PM throws his net wider with the weasel-worded “fellow-traveller”. But, surely, Framer @ 11:05 PM is an honourable man.

    Obviously, he hasn’t been paying much attention to the thread so far, or reading selectively. The CPNI (his omnibus term) ceased to exist in 1970, when the all-Ireland CPI was regenerated. But that’s merely a nugatory detail: of course Framer @ 11:05 PM didn’t seek to distort, and, surely, he is an honourable man.

    Nor, of course, is that honourable man just chucking around allegations of financial malfeasance. There’s a fraud detectives to deal with that kind of thing: so, do what every honourable man should — lay the evidence.

    Weirdest of all, to me, is that last bit about the “political levy”. Clearly, Framer @ 11:05 PM doesn’t comprehend what TU political funds are all about. They are for what amounts to “lobbying”, over and above the core member services. By no means all of the subscription goes to the Labour Party (if only: the present election propaganda would not then be so one-sided). Then again, I’m not surprised that they never sent a penny to the Labour Party, since (until very recently) the [British] Labour Party — tied by a resolution going back to 1918 — was refusing subscriptions from NI. Then, again, thanks to Thatcherite “reforms”, it is necessary to “contract in”: if the forms were not distributed, the members are not paying a political levy. So where’s the beef for that honourable man?

  • Framer

    Malcolm you are wrong of course. Labour did take political levy money from NI trade unions if it was offered. Some local trade unionists even got to conference as a result.

    You are wrong about that list of names (Jimmy Graham not Joe Graham) being McCarthyite (old CP trick, less used nowadays as the Moscow files are opened and people like Alger Hiss turn out definitely to be reds). The people I mentioned were open communists so could not be smeared.

    You are wrong about communists being harmless dog lovers and idealists. Betty Sinclair was happy to see Trots jailed for leading strikes during the war (after 1941).

    You are wrong about NUPE and contracting-in. You could not contract-in if NUPE/Unison officials never give you the form. The ATGWU had a near 100% contract-in rate, NUPE by definition nil.

    You are wrong about fraud. There were serious allegation about ballot rigging in leadership elections made against John Freeman and the ATGWU by amongst others Vincent Hanna. Just because there was no conviction does not mean there was no fraud. (cf Gerry Adams)

    You are wrong about fellow travellers. There were droves of them. Some admitted they were not so much duped as believing that American imperialism was worse than Soviet progressivism (gulags etc – minor detail to you). They accepted their mistake, honestly in many cases.

    Read a little by Nadezhda Mandelstam or ‘Into the Whirlwind’ by Evgenia Ginzburg instead of being a smart alec quoting Shakespeare.

    By the way Garibaldy, the Republican Clubs were a front for the IRA i.e. SF. Sorry to mention such a detail. Not that they were very numerous in NICRA membership.

    Remember too, personnel of the Clubs in 1968 had been killing RUC men a few years earlier.

    Silly unionists did. They found the idea of civil rights from that source hard to stomach. As you say the NILP had been honourably pressing for the key reforms in the decade up to 1968. And got no thanks electorally after 1970.

    Without the strength of the greater Labour Party around them they were cast to the winds by the sectarian warriors of armed hibernianism and loyalism.

  • Framer,

    The Republican Clubs were indeed part of the Republican Movement. And were of course founded due to the ban on Sinn Féin, and subsequently were banned themselves. In fact, any organisation with the word republican in it was banned. As was pointed out at the time, this therefore applied to repubicans of the US as well as the Chinese variety. As for not being very numerous in NICRA membership. This is plainly inaccurate, as is obvious from contemporary reports, whether in the United Irishman, the mainstream press, or the records of the Stormont regime.

    As for unionists finding the idea of civil rights hard to stomach from that source. While doubtless there was an element of that, that doesn’t explain why they found it equally hard to take civil right when advocated by liberals, British politicians, and the NILP. What does explain it is a regime and political attitudes built on discrimination to secure their dominance of state and society.

    They knew that civil rights, while leaving the integrity of the border intact, would destroy the regime as it existed. This explains the vehemence of the reaction of the most reactionary elements of unionism to peaceful civil rights marches.

  • Framer

    Well if they were that numerous (IRA men aside) I can’t think of any names.

    The Unionists did not need discrimination to survive and dominate. That was a given with the population proportions.

    What they could not be blamed for was to try and ensure the IRA could not operate. The RA had run armed campaigns every decade since partition.

    For Unionists to roll over because Roy Johnston had given Republicans a stages theory – reform precedes revolution and a united Ireland – was as unlikely here as anywhere else in the world.

    What Unionists did not grasp and it is hard for a dominant group – as it was in the south – is that generosity pays dividends and grabbing all key positions breeds discontent.

    The PD marches were designed to exacerbate tension and destabilise politics and could not be called civil rights marches.

  • So you can’t think of them, so they don’t exist? Do names like Kevin McCorry and Brigid Bond mean antything to you?

    As for unionist survival. My point exactly. The state was secure. And yet the Unionist regime and huge numbers of unionists still felt it necessary to discriminate against not just republicans, but anyone who disagreed with them, including labour activists.

    You may see basic civil rights as rolling over. Others saw it as British rights for British citizens. Plain as day the unionist government was trying to weasel its way out of reform, as was obvious from its actions in both public and private. My personal favourite was the argument made by ministers that they couldn’t grant UK citizens in NI the same democratic rights as elsewhere in the UK unless there was an eletion on the issue first. Talk about twisting democracy.

    As for the idea that the PD marches weren’t civil rights marches. Some were surely provocative and irresponsible, which is why they were opposed by the CP and the Republican Clubs, but the idea that they weren’t civil rights marches is again highly questionable. After all, what was the reason for the march, and why were the marches able to garner support? That would be the failure to institute reform, added to the aggressive response of the most reactionary elements of unionism.

  • Greenflag


    Excellent post 23 above . As we face into another election nationalists and republicans are aware that the ‘reactionary’ elements of unionism are still extant particularly in the TUV and in the DUP . One had thought that they might have dissippated somewhat in the UUP . If they have it has’nt been noticed by the number of even nominally RC candidates standing for the UCUNF in a province with a 47% ? nominally RC population .

    So much for NI being the ‘same’ as across the water . I’d imagine that if the Tories had’nt one Catholic on their selected candidate list for this election the British papers and the British Labour Party would have a field day dragging the Tories through the gutter press ?

  • Framer @ 11:01 AM:

    Of course, from your position on the dung-hill, I must be wrong, wrong, wrong. With your perspective that is inevitable.

    Curiously, it worries me not a jot.

    What is more concerning is your assumption that a long life among books has not touched on Nadezhda Yakovlevna Khazina and her husband Osip Emilievich Mandels(h)tam. I can assure you I was reading Mandelstam in translation when the McClelland versions came out in the early ’70s. As a smart Alec, it was the echoes of Ovid in Tristia that got me:

    How threadbare the language of joy’s game,
    how meagre the foundation of our life!
    Everything was, and is repeated again:
    it’s the flash of recognition brings delight.

    Equally, Yevgenia Semyonovna Ginzburg (which, I believe, in these more PC-times may be the preferred rendition) has been in my reading, though I think her memoir is more usually cited as Journey into the Whirlwind.

    Now, might we consider your interest in those works? Is it because they refer largely to the worst excesses of the Stalinist era? And therefore feed on existing prejudices?

    Let me remind you that the horrors of the Yezhovshchina became well-publicised in the West only with Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror of 1968. The up-dated version, aubtitled A Reassessment, is the one to seek out. It takes into account the evidence that came out after the collapse of the Soviet empire.

    Even so, this Alec, smart or not, gently suggests that it is an anachronism to attribute to the CPNI attitudes and knowledge acquired largely after ’68.

    Funnily enough, when I encountered Betty Sinclair in the ’60s, she came over very much as one of the harmless dog lovers and idealists. As for her and the CPNI’s total commitment to the Allied cause in wartime, I though we had already addressed that. Whatever its “dialectical materialism”, was it not the correct view to take?

  • Framer

    Do you mean to tell me Malcolm, despite your literary prowess, that nobody in the west had a clue about “the worst excesses of the Stalinist era” until Robert Conquest’s book in 1968?

    You only had to read the papers for starters not to mention a host of writers not least Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon (1941). But then they were all McCarthyites before their time.

    What about the 1930s trials and disappearances? A little nastier than our unionist brethren who managed a killing rate of near zero in their first and only 50 years of state power and discrimination.

  • Framer @ 04:59 PM:

    Do you mean to tell me … that nobody in the west had a clue about “the worst excesses of the Stalinist era” until Robert Conquest’s book in 1968?

    Read my previous post again, and you will see:

    The horrors of the Yezhovshchina became well-publicised in the West only with Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror of 1968.

    So, clearly, I meant precisely that.

    Of course the show-trials and the liquidations were “known”. Of course, those who stuck to the Moscow line were naïve. Of course, Koestler’s 1940 novel was read, and comprehended.

    Khrushchev’s secret speech of February 25, 1956 was the critical moment: after that (and even more so, after Hungary later that year) the comparatively-few die-hard Stalinists were no longer in the mainstream of Euro-communism. Eventually they regrouped as “revisionists”, “Maoists” or “internationalists” (see earlier post).

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (originally, edited, from 1962) opened the first peep-hole on the prison camps. Conquest’s detailed original research (published 1968), Medvedev’s Let History Judge (1972) and Solzhenitsyn’s huge three-volume job on The Gulag Archipelago (1973–1978) were what changed the whole climate for most of us. Else, why do we still regard those works as important?

    For sheer emetic value, that trivialising comparison in your final paragraph, takes today’s fingers-down-the-throat award.

  • Framer

    So only the Communists like Hiss and Sinclair and their fellow travellers did not believe the Soviet system was horrifyingly brutal and murderous until 1968. Or did not care as long as America was denounced.

    And we are meant to regard their obdurate blindness as a matter of no consequence, and instead to see them as “idealists”; people who favoured ‘civil rights’ in NI while working millions to death in Siberian camps.

    Thank Christ you never got near power Malcolm.

  • Greenflag,

    Cheers. Although I’d remember the reactionary elements of nationalism too.


    The last line of your 6.09pm post had been both laughing and wanting to vomit at the same time. As well as nodding in agreement.


    So the justice of an issue doesn’t matter, it is who that is asking for it that matters? That justifies unionism’s hypocrisy in spouting loudly about democracy while denying British rights to British citizens does it? What threat to the CP pose to the northern state? Or the IRA, which had a grand total of 24 weapons in Belfast and 3 in Derry in 1969? Hardly the same as the threat faced by the Soviet state in the 1920s and 1930s.

    The only threat to the Unionist regime was equality. That shows how rotten and unjustifiable a regime it was.

  • I think that little tantrum allows to me to quote the immortal words of Tuffy, Jerry Mouse’s nephew: Touché, Monsieur Pooosy-cat! (440 seconds of absolute delight).

    But putting Alger Hiss and Betty Sinclair in the same phrase! No sense of proportion! He only went in the slammer for perjury. She went inside for something serious: sedition.

  • Framer

    Feeble. They were both Moscow operators. One in Cregagh the other in Washington. It mattered not. Neither naive, any more than Nick Griffin.

    They were trying to bring about a revolution that would have seen you liquidated pronto as a Kulak Malcolm

    So it matters not how you ask for something Gari?

    The IRA dumped its arms in 1962. Its choice. But we are meant to regard them as a spent force only six years later.

    Oddly they managed in the decades thereafter to kill 2,000 people. So who got their assessment of the RA’s potential wrong?

  • Framer,

    But the civil rights movement asked for civil rights peacefully. We’ve already noted the efforts of the NILP around 1964, when the CSJ was getting up and running. The initial civil rights efforts consisted of letter-writing, pamphleteering, meeting with Stormont and British politicians. Only when all this failed was there a turn to marches. And those marches were peaceful. The unionist regime began preparing to justify resisting these demands to Britain from the mid-1960s.

    So the original civil rights campaigners were nice middle-class people asking extremely politely. How does that fit in with your scheme?

    As for the Provisional campaign. Of course unionist reaction played no part in creating the conditions where it could take off and gain support. Bombay Street, the Falls curfew, internment, Bloody Sunday. These were irrelevant of course.

  • Framer

    The essence of democracy is that you have the right to campaign for something not that you have the right to succeed.

  • Nah, Framer, the essence of democracy is equality and rule by the people. But it’s the weaknesses of arguments like your last that caused the unionist regime to try ignoring the issue, then force, the stalling. And from that decision flowed the crisis that broke in 1969, giving the worst sectarian bigots on both sides free rein.

    I think the deployment of this argument by yourself marks the point at which no more debate is necessary. You’ve proven your own defeat.