Communist Party of Ireland: Outline History
Date:1972 c.
Organisation:Communist Party of Ireland
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

20th January 2014

This history of the Communist Party of Ireland is a large magazine-like document, some 66 pages long. Black and white throughout in a series of essays and a longer Outline History it offers an overview of the development of the Communist Party of Ireland in its various incarnations on the island of ireland.

The essays include ones on Sean Murray, Jim Gralton. It also has an outline of the ‘Onslaught on Castlecomer Miners’ in the 1930s, another on how the ‘Ballyfermot Co-Op Falls Foul of Reaction’ in the 1950s, and ‘Belfast’s October, 1932’. It also has pieces on ‘Unemployed Struggles: 1920s to 1950s’ and the ’Spanish Civil War – 1936-1938’.

One interesting aspect of the text is the way in which the different organisational structures north and south are treated. For example, it is not made entirely clear that the Communist Party recombined into one party in the late 1960s or when the Irish Workers League became the Irish Workers’ Party, although in the text reference is made at one point to a speech by Sean Murray given in Moscow on behalf of Irish communists in 1960 where he says: I speak on behalf of the Irish Workers League, which functions in the Republic of Ireland, and on behalf of the Communist Party, which functions in Northern Ireland.

The existence of our two Marxist organisations arises from the partition of Ireland into two States.

Guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism, we elect to make joint statements on the important questions which which this great gathering of Communists from all parts of the world is concerned.

The Border Campaign in the late 1950s is treated as follows:

Between 1956 and 1962 there had been the cross-Border raids organised by the I.R.A. int he course of which some I.R.A. mean and R.U.C. constables were killed and wounded, as well as a number of Republicans were captured and got long terms of imprisonment. Both the C.P. in the North and the Irish Workers’ Party expressed disagreement with the forms of struggle used by the I.R.A. stating that they would not bring nearer the aim of a united Ireland, but would in fact harden the support of the Ulster Unionist overlords. The I.R.A. leadership called off the campaign in 1962 and in time it was acknowledged that the 1956-62 campaign had not been helpful in promoting success for the national aim.

There is considerable detail of a variety of events in which Communists on the island participated and at least some sense of the broader socio-economic and political dynamics at work which shaped the parties during this period. In sum a fascinating document.

EMC of the CPOI adds a couple of thoughts on the document and those who produced it.

…on the whole it was the work of Sean Nolan. He was born and reared in Marlborough St., and remembered coming a across a street meeting at which James Connolly was the speaker. He joined the Communist movement in the mid 1920′s and was a central figure in the re-establishment of the CPI in 1934.

He was a pivotal figure in coordinating and keeping in contact with communists scattered around the country as well as those who emigrated to Britain etc. He was also secretary of the Spanish Aid Committee and the Release Frank Ryan Committee. He established the first Connolly House that was attacked and burned down he ran a book club from it disseminating Connolly’s writings, as well as materials about the Soviet Union. He established New Books in Pearse Street, then Parliament Street, then final in the current venue. He was a beautiful, gentle thoughtful comrade. It was a great honour to have worked along side him.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 20 Jan 2014 22:55:12

    That “trend” certainly exists in the historiography of the CPGB, and is generally associated with sympathetic historians who want to rescue something from the experience of that party – usually by distinguishing between its good British timid reformism and its bad, alien, Russian Stalinism.

    It is however something of a false dichotomy – the CPs were, at least up until the Euro turn in some countries, both utterly subservient to Moscow and responsive to local conditions, creating an ongoing tension.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 20 Jan 2014 22:56:07

    There’s a copy in TCD library.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 20 Jan 2014 23:08:06

    Prohibitively expensive second hand. I think there’s a copy or two floating around Dublin City libraries.

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  • By: CMK Mon, 20 Jan 2014 23:29:18

    STG 73.94 on Amazon!!

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  • By: BB Tue, 21 Jan 2014 01:59:08

    The National Library of Ireland catalogue shows “search results of 1 found”.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Tue, 21 Jan 2014 08:45:18

    Leaders of the CPs and indeed the CPI were not brain dead ( esp. Murray and Carmody) and were responsive to local conditions. But when it came to a clash with Moscow they either bent or were purged. Look at the changes of line across the water over WW1. Pollitt was nearly caught offline.
    Nowadays it is even sadder as they still look to Moscow under Putin. So they support uncritically the governments of Ukraine and Syria. And they listen to news from Moscow from the equivalent of CNN. If you think I am mistaken look at the equivalence of Russia’s foreign policy and the line of most CPs. The local Catholic Churchs had/have the same autonomy.
    Oh and the small sects obey their masters in a similar manner.

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  • By: Top Cat Tue, 21 Jan 2014 10:27:16

    “they listen to news from Moscow from the equivalent of CNN” – woo, one moronic statement there.

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  • By: Starkadder Tue, 21 Jan 2014 11:15:11

    “Look at the changes of line across the water over WW1. Pollitt was nearly caught offline.”

    I take it you meant to write “WW2”, when Harry Pollitt
    got in trouble for opposing the CPGB’s disgraceful
    championing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

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  • By: Charley Darling Tue, 21 Jan 2014 12:05:17

    So a bunch of Trots think that a Trot account of the CPI is balanced, not driven by polemical intent – what a surprise.

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  • By: Starkadder Tue, 21 Jan 2014 12:13:23

    I’m not a Trot- I’m not even a Leninist- and I
    through Millotte’s book on the CPI was excellent.

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  • By: John Tynan Tue, 21 Jan 2014 12:13:45

    Interesting to read such radical stances from noted keyboard warrior Mark P – a man who won’t even use his real name in case it damages his privileged professional career.

    what gleaming future awaits the working class that is carved from such bravery.

    BTW, Milotte’s treatment of Betty Sinclair is noting short of scandalous – a point that Milotte himself has conceded over the years.

    On other words, not even Milotte believes the book to be balanced.

    carry on lads, carry on.

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  • By: Ed Tue, 21 Jan 2014 12:13:53

    I think Mike M. himself mentioned on one CLR thread that he had bought back the copyright at some point years ago, so if anyone fancies running off a new batch. Seriously though, would it make sense for him to pass it onto Lulu or one of the other self-publishing outfits, I’d imagine there would be a few people who’d fork out for a copy?

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Tue, 21 Jan 2014 12:36:16

    Indeed. Oh a funny note here Enjoy
    Rolling Your Own

    A Guide to Forming Your Own Political Group
    http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/critiques/sullivan/roll.html

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  • By: Michael Carley Tue, 21 Jan 2014 13:03:32

    Good advice:

    Whether you choose option A or B, it is essential that you study the accounts of existing groups in As Soon As This Pub Closes in order to differentiate your own group from what is already on offer.

    The RCP in action:

    Furedi and Hume didn’t attempt to work out if victory for the United States would help or hinder the progressive cause in the Middle East. Instead, they meticulously went through the positions of their rivals, from the Socialist Workers Party to the left of the Labour Party. None, they established, was actually supporting Saddam Hussein and wishing him the best of luck in his forthcoming battle to the death with British troops. “Victory for Iraq!” became their slogan.

    http://www.newstatesman.com/node/143581

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  • By: Bob Smiles Tue, 21 Jan 2014 13:55:31

    What is the actual content of the pamphlet like facts-wise? Tommy McKearney writes for CP paper these days. Party seem sympathetic to republicanism

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  • By: Gearóid Tue, 21 Jan 2014 14:22:48

    It’s in NUIG too.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Tue, 21 Jan 2014 18:13:49

    But that’s not a great argument JT. MarkP hasn’t set himself up as a leader of the working class as far as I can see and there’s nothing per se wrong in using a pseudonym on the internet. I do, and you appear to as well.

    As regards not being balanced, that’s also a fairly poor argument. It’s decades since I read it and I don’t recall the Betty Sinclair aspect of it, but all history is going to be inflected by the individual writing it to some degree or antoher and the point is that one reads it knowing that and taking it into account. No one here has said it’s the last word on the matter. I’m not a Marxist-Leninist myself or a Trotskyist but like others here I found it an interesting and useful work. I don’t recall – and I was a member of the WP at the time – being mightily irritated by it one way or another and I was fairly aware it came from a certain angle. But there was some good solid history in there even if I’d have quibbled with some of the interpretations. Which I would do with pretty much any history I read that sticks with the facts.

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  • By: Mark P Tue, 21 Jan 2014 19:51:08

    There are few sights more amusingly stupid than some clown complaining about the use of consistent pseudonyms on the Internet.

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  • By: Dr. X Wed, 22 Jan 2014 15:11:49

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: Mike Milotte Thu, 03 Sep 2015 10:55:48

    John Tynan – January 21, 2014 wrote:
    “…BTW, Milotte’s treatment of Betty Sinclair is noting short of scandalous – a point that Milotte himself has conceded over the years.”

    Someone just brought this to my attention, asking me to provide a reference for my change of mind on my ‘scandalous’ treatment of Betty Sinclair. I don’t know who John Tynan is or where he’s coming from, but I would be very grateful if he could answer these two related questions: what did I say about Betty Sinclair that was scandalous (and presumably, by definition, untrue)? And where and when did I indicate a change of mind? It’s news to me!

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