The first discussion in Socialist Review, 1957

Submitted by AWL on 25 October, 2014 - 4:28

“It would seem that you have altered your programme because some pseudo-socialists in Ireland are ‘unclear’ on the issue. This seems to me to be a perilously near approach to the attitude of the legendary Yankee politician who assured his hearers that ‘Them’s my sentiments, and if you don’t like them they can be scrapped’.” – P Lavin, Socialist Review, 1 March 1959

Socialist Review was the journal of the Socialist Review group, the forerunner of the International Socialists in the 1960s and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) since 1977.

In the first six years of its existence, from 1950, Socialist Review had never said a word about Ireland. This is curious because Tony Cliff, the founder and leader of the Socialist Review group, had lived in Dublin as a student from 1947 to 1951. For anyone needing to learn the nature of Irish politics, the politics of Partition included, and of the 26 county Catholic-sectarian state, it would be difficult to find a period in Irish history offering such an intense and concentrated series of educational events as those afforded to the student Ygael Gluckstein [Cliff] in those years.

The Catholic bishops had brutally deployed their great power to veto an attempt to introduce rudimentary free health-care for mothers and children by the Minister for Health, Dr. Noel Browne.

The 26 county Free State proclaimed itself a Republic in January 1949. Apart from leaving the Commonwealth and thus adding an additional obstacle to relations with northern Ireland, nothing changed. The Southern parties had waged a big international propaganda campaign against Partition, and thereby encouraging a revival of the physical force Republican movement, whose members attempted with guns to achieve what the 26 Counties political Establishment tried and failed to achieve with diplomacy and propaganda.

Socialist Review was small and it appeared infrequently, bi-monthly at best in its early period. That may in part explain the total silence on Ireland. In 1957, the Socialist Review (SR) group announced that it had fused with a few, Nottingham-based, recent Communist Party members. (Eventually they would be the original nucleus of the Mandel-Pablo Fourth International in Britain in the 1960s).

As a result of the fusion discussions, Socialist Review changed the statement of its principles that appeared in every issue. One existing position was modified, and a new one was added.

Thus in the April 1957 issue, for the first time, Socialist Review took a stand on the “Irish question”.

SR, it announced, was for “The reunification of an independent Ireland”. This was an odd formulation.

To Republicans and nationalists, a united Ireland fully separated from Britain was what they understood by independence. Socialist Review’s formulation begged a lot more questions than it answered. What did it mean?

That the Six Counties should become independent and then unite with the 26 Counties? Meanwhile? For practical purposes socialists should recognise the existing partition? And what did it mean for the labour movement? For Irish socialists?

That the socialists and the workers’ movement should continue to be separate, North and South? Their militants would work separately for an independent Northern Ireland, explaining that independence was necessary so that the two independent states could achieve the great goal of all-Ireland unity? That they were against Irish unity, or calls for unity, until the Six Counties had won their independence from Britain? And the revolutionary workers meanwhile? They should organise separately and conduct their struggles separately?

On the face of it, Socialist Review’s new position was a pro-Partition variant of the call for a united Ireland. None of that was spelt out, and possibly was not fully understood by the ultra-subtle people who had formulated the new position.

It was typical of the group to first change the “line” and then “discuss” it; when they dropped this innovation, it would be the same procedure.

It would emerge in the discussion that followed in 1957-8, and in the 1969 discussion, that SR’s position was that there should be two Irish socialist revolutions, and then unity. The Stalinists were notorious among Trotskyists for advocating a two-stage Irish revolution — first “full” independence and reunification, then socialism. SR would stand this idea on its head: first two separate socialist revolutions, then unification.

Socialist Review contracts out the job of explaining the “Irish question” to Patricia Rushton, secretary of the “Movement For Colonial Freedom”.

This organisation was led by the Labour MP Fenner Brockway — who had been a leader of the ILP until the mid-forties — and similar well-meaning people.

Patricia Rushton will for a while write for Socialist Review on other “colonial” questions, such as Central Africa. Her “Irish Politics Today” (May 1957) says nothing about the new Socialist Review formula.

Rushton’s language suggests a CP or CP-influenced background; her outlook is that of an Irish populist nationalist; her account of things is what the Connolly Association, the CP Irish “front” in Britain, is saying in pamphlets and in its monthly paper Irish Democrat. These ideas have a widespread influence in the British labour movement, and in the labour Party too. They will be permuted in the subsequent discussion.

There are “two real issues in Irish politics today”, she tells SR readers, Partition and unemployment, and the emigration which is the result of unemployment. She puts the exodus at 40,000 a year from the not-quite three million population of the 26 counties.

Unemployment, she tells SR readers, is the result of Partition. “Having failed to solve [Partition, the Irish Government] have therefore failed to make any impression on unemployment and immigration”

Supposedly designed to “protect the [protestant-Unionist] minority” on the island, in fact Partition has “viciously attacked the welfare of the [all-Ireland] majority”.

Partition has created evils such as Catholic Church domination in the South, evils that are in turn used to justify Partition.

Without the exclusion of the “potentially radical” working class of the North, the Catholic Church would not be so dominant in the South.

She quotes James Connolly in 1914 that Partition would disrupt and destroy the labour movement and “help the Home Rule [nationalist] and Orange (Unionist) capitalists and clerics to keep their political rallying cries before the public... [and] would make division more intense and confusion of ideas and positions more confounded”

This, Connolly’s assessment of the likely consequences of Partition, is common stock on the anti-Partitionist left. Connolly had written that partition would bring “a carnival of reaction”, North and South. (But his conclusion from that prospect was not the common stock of the Left. It was that, therefore, rather than Partition it would be better that no part of Ireland should have Home Rule).

Rushton sees Partition not as a consequence of the chronic antagonism between Protestant-Unionist and Catholic-nationalist Ireland, but as the cause and origin of this division.

“With the workers divided, reactionary governments have ruled in Ireland on both sides of the Border.”

The result is mass unemployment and emigration.

Under a cross-head, “Death of a Labour Party”, Rushton explains that Irish Labour “lost its constructive socialist thinker” when the British firing squad killed James Connolly in May 1916, 41 years earlier.

Two politically similar bourgeois parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, dominate 26 County politics.

The non-socialist Labour Party, participant in two coalition governments, has become a satellite of the weakest of them, Fine Gael, with no distinctive politics of its own.

The unemployed in Dublin have stood Jack Murphy in Dublin South Central, and won a Dail seat. Noel Browne, a noted critic of the Catholic Church in Irish politics, with the backing of many Labour Party members, has stood in Dublin as an independent, and won.

She thinks that the power of the Catholic church is greatly exaggerated. People would vote left if the Labour Party gave them the chance to. “If the Labour Party had a genuinely socialist policy, and had run a militant campaign, they would not have suffered the losses they did in the recent elections”.

That is the significance of the 65,000 and four seats won by Sinn Fein (Abstentionists on principle, Sinn Fein refuse to take the seats they won.) “Not so much an indication that the people back a policy of armed force against Ulster, but that they realise the importance of Partition in Irish life and are willing to support those who keep the question alive”.

The main lesson of the recent election is, she thinks, “That people want a progressive policy and will vote for it when they find it”. “The duty of the “labour movement” is to put forward a radical policy and “on it build a socialist party in the South of Ireland” (Emphasis added). Until that is done, no progress can be made towards solving the problem of partition [or] “the running sore of Irish life”, unemployment and emigration.

“The rank and file of the Labour Party must replace the present leadership with men of more militant character and greater integrity”.

If Labour offers to the people a radical policy it can hope to build a strong opposition and eventually a Labour Government. It would “gather to itself the more socially and economically aware members of the present Sinn Fein and all those progressive independents who have come to the fore because of the failures of the Irish Labour Party to fulfil its historic duty...”

THE MYTHICAL “CASE AGAINST PARTITION”

This article accurately sums up the dominant attitudes on the populist-nationalist Left and the CP-influenced segments of the Labour Movement. Much of it is nonsensical. The “nonsense” will generate in SR a fruitful discussion on Ireland.

That there has been a “carnival of reaction”, north and south, for more than three decades, is understatement rather than exaggeration. That the Partition border and intra-Irish economic tariffs make the economic situation worse than it might otherwise be is also true. (The tariffs were first erected by the Dublin government in the early thirties).

Rushton offers no explanation for Partition. Partition operates as a malevolent but mysterious force. In fact, though existing divisions allowed Britain great scope for manipulation, Partition was a consequence not a cause of division.

The assumption that Ireland was a “natural” economic entity disrupted by partition is pointedly not true: Ireland has never provided the market for the big industries in the North, which included what was then the largest shipyards in the world. Neither Dublin nor Belfast were the centre of an interknit Irish economic entity. Both segments of Ireland related to economic centres in Britain.

Mass emigration had been a giant feature of Irish life not since 1922, but since the famine of the 1840s; and indeed there had been large-scale emigration long before that (And other large-scale famines). Not only is partition not explained, not only is it used as a first cause for things of which it was a product not a cause, but the end of Partition is seen as a cure-all, without any notion of how it is to be achieved or how its economic magic will work.

Patricia Rushton offered a seriously stupid piece of explaining away to account for the upsurge of nationalism in response to the border campaign. Four Sinn Fein TDs were elected because people wanted to keep the issue of partition to the forefront – as if the Establishment did not “keep the issue alive”.

The main lesson of the recent election is, she thinks, “That people want a progressive policy and will vote for it when they find it”.

Sinn Fein had typically small-bourgeois politics and the ideal of a self-sufficient small-island peasant economy. The statement that they had a progressive policy is so sharply at odds with the reality that the reader is reduced to speculation: what can she have meant? Their opposition to Partition? That was common to all the southern parties. Their militarism? If not that, what?

Now, there is at least a serious possibility that Catholic control, which stifled the 26 counties, would never have been as all-controlling as it in fact was, if one million Protestants had existed in the same state. But the Catholic church already had enormous power in Catholic Ireland. Protestant reaction to the power of the church in Catholic Ireland – expressed in the cry, “Home Rule means Rome Rule” – had been a major factor in mobilising mass opposition to Home Rule. (The fact that in the decade before World War One a very powerful Catholic version of the Orange Order rampaged through Ireland is ignored or forgotten).

The fact that the majority in “Ulster” sees itself as British, as having a national identity different from that of the Catholic-nationalist majority on the island, is ignored; and thus the solution is looked for to working class unity, which is equated with northern working class conversion to support for a united Ireland — that is, all-Irish working class unity is assumed to automatically produce acceptance by the Northern Ireland working class of the “national” programme of the Catholic-nationalist workers. But it is only possible to make these assumptions by misrepresenting and misidentifying the dynamic causes of Partition and the depth of the communal-national conflict of identities.

The tiny Irish Trotskyist group, which included Matt Merrigan and after 1947 adhered to the “Shachtmanite” Workers’ Party strand in post-Trotsky Trotskyism, has, in the period of Cliff’s residence in Dublin, broken some new ground. It has separated itself from middle-class nationalism and its populist “left” variant by advocating a federal Ireland, which would take account of the distinct identity of the northern Protestants. But no trace of that idea remains in Socialist Review.

SOCIALIST REVIEW FINDS AN INTERPRETER-SPOKESMAN

Patricia Rushton has summed up the populist-left-nationalist version of middle class Catholic nationalism, and repeated the then common understanding of the issues. This has nothing to do with the “subtleties” of the new Socialist Review formula.

But SR now publishes a number of articles that will bring out some of the real complex of issues which constitutes the mid-20th century “Irish question”.

Rushton has not explored the meaning and implications of Socialist Review’s new-minted slogan. In the September 1957 SR it is the turn of Senator Owen Sheehy Skeffington: “What has happened to the Irish revolution?”

Owen Sheehy Skeffington is a humane, pacifistic socialist, a representative of Trinity College Dublin in the Irish Senate. He has campaigned against such things as the comprehensively vicious corporal punishment and other ill-treatments routinely meted out to Irish school children, at a time when nobody else was doing it. Tony Cliff says in his reminiscences that when he lived in Dublin Owen Sheehy Skeffington’s family “adopted” the stranger, inviting him regularly to Sunday dinner.

Owen Sheehy Skeffington is the son of famous parents, Francis Skeffington and Hannah Sheehy. They were feminists — when they married each took the other’s name — pacifists and socialists, associates of Jim Larkin and James Connolly in the battles of Irish labour before 1914.

In campaigning for votes for women, the militant suffrage movement which they led had avoided the rupture with the Labour movement which made the militant suffrage movement in Britain, aristocratic both in outlook and in some of its composition (with the exception of its East Lindon segment, led by Sylvia Pankhurst) bitterly antagonistic to the labour movement. The political root of that antagonism lay in the perceived contradiction between the demand of the labour movement for universal suffrage, and the demand of the suffragettes for the vote “on the same basis as men”, which in practice meant votes on a property qualification that would still have excluded most women, as it already excluded many working class men. It was, therefore, in practice the demand of “votes for ladies.”

In Ireland the Labour movement, led by the militant Larkin and Connolly, supported both the demand for votes on the same basis as men and universal suffrage. The women’s suffrage movement organised by Sheehy and Skeffington, backed the labour movement.

Francis Sheehy Skeffington was a vocal opponent of the nationalist militarism that came to dominate Irish politics in the 1916 Rising, and after. An opponent of the Rising, he went out to try and stop looting during the rising, was captured and summarily shot on the orders of a British officer, who was found to be insane by a subsequent British enquiry into the incident. In the 20s and 30s, Hannah Sheehy Skeffington became closely associated with the Irish Stalinists; in the 1930s her son, Owen, spoke on their platforms.

In July 1957, two months before Socialist Review printed his article, Senator Owen Sheehy-Skeffington has voted in favour of interning Republicans who refuse to give an undertaking to the state to desist from their military activities. (An internee can at any point secure release by way of a declaration to abide by the law of the 26 Counties.)

Skeffington’s SR piece shows him to be a utopian, as distinct from a Marxist, class-struggle, socialist.

His piece is not identified as a reprint, though it is addressed to an Irish rather than to a British audience. He does not refer at all to Patricia Rushton’s article.

Ireland, he says, has been on the “wrong road” since 1922, when an Irish government recognised by the British was established in Dublin and a year-long civil war broke out between that government and Republicans who refused to recognise the King of England as titular head of the Irish Free State. It will become clear that Sheehy Skeffington thinks that “the wrong road” stretches back not only to 1922 but to the 1916 Rising.

Why “wrong”? “The vast majority of Irish Republicans, past and present, had never and have never given a thought to what precisely the social and economic content of their Republic would be. For them the Republic is a bright symbol entirely devoid of significant content”

“The Irish people are terrified, I repeat, terrified, of facing the facts of social and economic life” which produce “unemployment in the midst of work crying out to be done” and mass migration from Ireland.

All “our” efforts have been directed towards setting up and maintaining “a tuppeny-halfpenny, third-rate capitalist statelet” in which an Irish ruling class can buy “big American cars” while poor “Paddy and Bridget” are “free to continue as under-educated labourers and maids... .Our new Irish aristocrats of trade and politics have... far less social conscience than many” of the old Anglo-Irish ruling class.

He quotes James Connolly in 1897: “Remove the English army tomorrow, and hoist the Green Flag... [and] unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic, your efforts will be in vain” With an illustrative story he recalls that during the war of independence (1919-21) the IRA was used to protect the property of the rich against the poor.

Under a cross head, “No Solution Short of Socialism”, he goes on: Today “Ireland” is terrified of socialism and has been since James Connolly was murdered “with the approval of a whole section of the Irish ruling class”.

(Connolly, shot on 12 May 1916, was one of the last two of the 15 men shot after the suppression of the Rising. An outcry against the killings was gathering force. Connolly was recovering in jail from a badly wounded leg. For fear Connolly might escape with his life, the Irish Independent appeared with an editorial pointing out that some of the worst ringleaders remained unpunished, side-by-side with a photograph of James Connolly).

Governments of the independent Irish state, and the physical-force Republicans, abstaining from politics, have both failed utterly.

Nothing will be right until “we... plan our whole economy” to produce for need.

Sheehy Skeffington concludes: “When, then, will Ireland dare to awake and shake off her fears? Have we yet indeed, indeed, reached the point where an Irish newspaper will even allow such a question to be put to its readers?”

This is good-hearted abstract socialist propaganda directed at the “general public” and at “Ireland”. Such socialist preaching would have its place in the arsenal of an Irish socialist movement that had other weapons in play as well, in the first place the class struggle of the proletariat. In essence he propounds a populist-nationalist version of socialism.

The reference to Connolly is a piety: Connolly is an icon in the canon of Irish nationalism, sworn to by everyone. Skeffington is explicitly pessimistic about the Irish working class.

The picture of the various Republican formations over the decades is a rhetorical device. They did know what they stood for socially — as his own recollection of the IRA protecting landlords and others during the Anglo-Irish War aptly illustrates.

Whoever found Sheehy Skeffington’s article and reprinted it evidently wants this sort of “socialism is the only answer” exposition.

A decade later, in the late 60s, this sort of abstract socialism will play a very bad role in disarming socialists and preparing the rise of the Provisional IRA, which offered what came to be accepted as practical, immediate, anti-imperialist politics. We will see what role the political descendants of the SR group played then.

SHEEHY SKEFFINGTON’S SECOND ARTICLE

The October 1957 SR carries a second article by Skeffington: “Ireland: Socialist Policy versus the IRA”. This too reads as something intended for an Irish audience. It is an extremely important article for its approach to the residual national question in Ireland.

Skeffington knows himself to represent a distinct, long-eclipsed strand in Irish politics.

Where Owen Sheehy Skeffington’s first article is vague, this is sharp and hard. He cuts through the prevailing form of mystifying Catholic middle-class nationalist cant about Partition. He defines the situation in Northern Ireland concretely and in the light of the principle of self-determination:

“Since [the counties of] Fermanagh and Tyrone never asked to be disjointed from the rest of Ireland, and have ever since consistently ‘opted out’ in the only constitutional manner open to them — by voting nationalist — the term ‘occupied counties’ might with justice be applied to them, but not to the other 4 counties, taken either singly or collectively.”

Measuring in existing counties does not adequately address the complex demography of the Six Counties, but in principle this is the whole issue, the modern “Irish question”, in a nutshell.

I need to digress to explain.

The fundamental fact is the existence of an Irish Protestant-Unionist minority, identifying themselves as British, who are the compact majority in north-east Ulster. The problem with Partition is that it does not cleanly, or as cleanly as the intermingling of Catholic-nationalists and Protestant-Unionists would allow, divide the peoples who proclaim conflicting national identities, Irish and British. It imprisons in the Protestant-Unionist state, against their will, a Catholic-nationalist population who are (in 1957) at least one in three of the 6-County population, and the majority in not much less than half the land are of the 6-County state. They are the majority not only in Fermanagh and Tyrone, but also, for example, in the second city of Northern Ireland, Derry, a mere two miles inside the 6 county border though in a predominantly Protestant-Unionist county.

Partition created a second Irish minority, the Catholic nationalists within the 6-County “Protestant” state. They are a bigger proportion of the 6-County population than the Protestant-Unionists would have been in a 32-County Ireland. This artificial second minority burns with a sense of British imperialist-imposed injustice and experiences daily discrimination and second-class citizenship at the hands of an insecure and fear-ridden Northern Ireland majority.

If it were not for this very large imprisoned Catholic minority, the northern state would have become a reality justified by the democratic will of the overwhelming majority of its citizens. Catholic-nationalist Ireland would have had to accept it and proceed to establish friendly links with the other Irish state. It would have had to translate the desire for a United Ireland into reasoned argument, practical proposals, and exploration of possible compromises.

With the big imprisoned Catholic minority, growing faster than the Protestant-Unionists, the 6-County state developed as an unstable quasi-police state for the minority and a place of uneasy dominance for its majority.

To return to Skeffington – he concludes that: “Consequently, useful activity to end Partition should be directed, on both sides of the Border, towards concerted action to better the living conditions of all our people”. Southern anti-Partitionists should “study what it has proved possible to do in the social field in the 6-Counties, and to decide what exactly would be the social content of the all-Ireland Republic of their dreams.”

This is a slightly bashful attempt to argue for “socialism” from the Welfare State which the reforming Labour Government of 1945 had brought to the Six Counties as part of the UK.

Skeffington quotes James Connolly in 1901: “Ireland as distinct from her people is nothing to me.”

He urges those who think as he does to “use their influence to turn the very real spirit of self-sacrifice of those young men who are now being organised for glamorous military forays — including murder if things go wrong — towards less glamorous”, but more constructive activities.

Some in Ireland glorify “the military method” and are not afraid of “another civil war”. “The military method is conventionally held to be a glorious one; and in some Irish circles today the prospect of another civil war is being received with startling equanimity — partly, perhaps, because of exaggerated and unthinking anti-Partitionist propaganda...” And also because of a sense of failure... to “apply the high principles of Connolly to our own people... Military action, however, is not the answer. It constitutes a backward step. Far more could in fact be achieved by intelligent organised passive resistance to injustice wherever it occurs; by extending the hand of friendship to all Northerners of goodwill... “

He is seriously mistaken that passive resistance and militarism are mutually exclusive: a variant of passive resistance and political agitation for “civil rights” created the mass base for the militarism of the Provisional IRA after 1971, when the catastrophe of a decades long “civil war” — civil war burked by the efforts of the British state in Northern Ireland — engulfed the peoples there.

Skeffington quotes what his father said in favour of passive resistance, against the “military methods”, in a famous dispute with Thomas MacDonagh (one of the 15 leaders shot after the Easter Rising): Irish militarism can never be on as great a scale as England’s.

Anticipating how and why the “Civil Rights” movement at the end of the 1960s could generate the armed Provos, Owen Sheehy Skeffington wrote: “it is so much easier to organise people to pull triggers than to get them to think out exactly what they hope to achieve.”

He lambasts the Republican side in the 1922-3 civil war and after:

“Astonishing as it may appear, about half the courageous and self-sacrificing Republican movement did not know whether the proposed Treaty was or was not a forward step towards what they had been fighting for”.

This is far too rationalistic. The tragic and confused civil war of 1922-3 was fought by many rank and file Republicans in an incoherent opposition to the Establishment that had lined up behind section of Sinn Fein and the IRA led by Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith.

Skeffington: “Unless and until Ireland, North and South, manages radically to change the whole basis of production, distribution and finance, and to organise our economic life to provide as its first object for the fundamental needs of all our citizens along the clear socialist lines laid down by Connolly, no amount of heroic gun battles, blood sacrifice and militaristic exploits will get us one step nearer to solving the real problems facing our people”.

Conditions in Ireland, North and South, produce the IRA? “Yes!”. But: “British and French policy after World War One did much to produce Nazism. That does not mean that Nazism was consequently to be applauded, or that Hitler’s resort to force was the only method of gaining fair treatment for Germany, or, finally, that his effort was anything, in the event, but conspicuously disastrous for his own people.”

Sheehy Skeffington ends by demanding that the IRA and its supporters give “an immediate and unambiguous answer to the question as to what would be the social content of the republic which by violence they hope to establish for all Ireland.”

Another rhetorical device: there is no ambiguity about the social ideals of the IRA and Sinn Fein. They want a small commodity producers Ireland. In their ideas they were petty bourgeois representatives of small-scale private property. Some of them are openly anti-Semites.

In Labor Action Matt Merrigan has reported that there are fascist strains in Sinn Fein.

That this pacifistic “sectarian socialism” approach best sums up the thinking of the leaders of the Socialist Review group will subsequently become clear.

P. LAVIN: “IN DEFENCE OF THE IRA”

Two months later, the December 1957 Socialist Review carries an angry reply, to Sheehy Skeffington, “In Defence of the IRA”, by W.P. Lavin of Glasgow.

Lavin, a veteran of many decades in the labour movement, is, if I understand it, an Oehlerite, a sort of ultra-sectarian and ultra left “Trotskyist”, a Catholic and a fervent Irish nationalist. For all that, he is a sharp-witted man who knows where to hit his opponents. His attitudes and politics anticipate the pro-IRA British left of the 70s.

Sheehy Skeffington has made a “cowardly attack on the Irish resistance movement”; his article “could have been written by an official agent of the British government”. The IRA is not “produced” by Ireland but by the British government: “As long as there is a British Army in Ireland, the IRA will be there too”.

Lavin insists on being fair to Adolf Hitler. It is “British jingo opinion to blame Hitler and not imperialist rivalry for the World War.” It is a too “easy assumption that ‘Nazism’ is something more evil than capitalism”. The vehement 1840s radical nationalist, Fintan Lalor, was right: “Deliverance or death — deliverance, or this island a desert.”

Sheehy Skeffington would have had “short shrift” had he demanded of the French anti-German Resistance that they had to produce a blueprint for a new France!

The partition of Ireland was imposed by force, under Prime Minister Lloyd George’s threat to the Irish negotiators of “war without stint” as the alternative.

The IRA should seek “the good will of world opinion”? The “Hungarian counterparts of the Irish republican soldiers” had it a year ago, “and much good it did them!”

The IRA are “murderers”? Dr Fogarty, the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe, has written: “When the young men of Ireland hit back at their oppressors it is not for an old man like me to cry foul”.

(This archaic reference sums up Lavin’s position more than he may have understood. Michael Fogarty supported the Republican forces in the war of independence; was vehemently on the anti-Republican side in the civil war; and was an outspoken clerical-fascist Blueshirt bishop in the mid-30s. He sat on the Blueshirts’ platforms at public meeting in Ennis.)

Lavin sums up the militarist version of the politics Patricia Rushton has already presented in Socialist Review. The Belfast Government represents “a quisling minority with the mentality of... the backwoodsmen of Arkansas who [believe in] life, liberty and the pursuit of negroes.”

TThe Dublin politicians should be held in detestation by opponents of the Belfast “quisling” regime. They “have done little or nothing to reunite their country or to endeavour to have it take its old and rightful place amongst the nations of the earth”,

He concludes: “Partition has inflicted well-nigh irreparable injury upon the country”; and “Without the backing of the British forces there could be no partition of Ireland.”

The editors have put a cross-head in Lavin’s piece: “Neither Stormont nor Dublin” – echoing their own “Neither Washington nor Moscow”. In the Irish context, it evokes the “abstentionist” Republicans rejection of the two “Partitionist parliaments” in Belfast and Dublin!

An editorial reply in the same paper takes Lavin to task for saying the title had been “Ireland versus the IRA” when it had been “Socialist Policy Versus the IRA”. More debatably, and very oddly indeed: “Sheehy Skeffington did not hold Hitler responsible for World War Two but explicitly stated that British and French policies after 1918 did much to produce Nazism.” Sheehy Skeffington’s point was that though Britain and France had done much to produce Nazism, one could not therefore endorse Hitler’s war-making. Why is SR so defensive?.

“If as [Lavin] suggests the IRA’sway is, and should be, Ireland’s way, why do they not, why does he not, show us where that way is leading? Why violence if it leads nowhere? If, indeed, it hinders us from getting anywhere.”

This ends the first discussion in Socialist Review. The commitment to “The reunification of an independent Ireland” remains in the programme printed in each issue.

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