Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
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Reply to Anthony Coughlan on CPI book
history and heritage |
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:07 by Matt Treacy
Regarding Anthony Coughlan’s latest attempt to denigrate my books.
The books stand on their merits and I have no need to repeat what is in them. They stand or fall on their own merits. However a number of points in Coughlan’s ‘review’ do need to be addressed.
First of all, the production issues relate to a small number of books sold at the time of the launch. All of these have been corrected and the index is now fully accurate.
He claims the book is ‘thoroughly nasty’. I take it that is a reference to it’s critical analysis of the pro-Soviet Communist movement. I make no more apology for being anti-Stalinist than I do for being anti-Nazi. It is also clear that one of the features of the CP book most upsetting to the inheritors of Irish Stalinism is its exposé of the dishonesty and intellectual gymnastics that were employed to justify the Stalin/Hitler Pact between 1939 and 1941.
A Pact broken, not by the Stalinists but by the Nazis. The same applied to their dogged defence of Soviet foreign policy over the entire period up to the collapse of the USSR.
Contrary to Coughlan’s claim, the book is almost entirely based on original records, including those of the CP itself, and certainly does not rely on ‘Government Ministers’ ‘MI5’, the ‘Catholic Standard’ or fascists for its analysis of Communism during the period under review. The historical is quite clear in regard to the horrors visited on the world by Stalinism and its off-shoots.
It is also clear that Communist Party policy during the period under review was first and foremost a function of Soviet foreign policy. Ample eveidence, some of it quoted in the book, exists to prove Soviet interest in opposing British membership of the EEC, including substantial funding for the CPGB campaign.
That is not to deny that there were genuine reasons for opposing the EEC and Irish republicans were the first to do so. That was a significant factor in persuading the Irish Communists to alter their attitude towards the republican movement after Lemass had applied for membership. That was during the 1956-1962 IRA ‘border campaign’ which the Communists had resolutely opposed and had been disparaging of the republicans until the EEC application once again made them an attractive ‘ally’. All of that is dealt with in both books.
In relation to Greaves, the record clearly shows that he was a member of the CPGB International Department and it was in that capacity that he ran the Connolly Association, and attempted, with a degree of success to influence political events in Ireland through those who shared his position, and indeed his membership of the Communist Party, either in Britain and/or in Ireland.
The evidence for CPGB control of the CA is extensive and conclusive and is dealt with in the book. Indeed, one of the key debates within the CA during the 1950s – extensively dealt with in the book from CPGB sources – was whether the Association ought to have ‘come out’ as the London Irish branch of the CPGB, or remained, as favoured by Greaves and the CPGB International Department, a covertly controlled Party front organisation.
There was also clearly an intention to create a formal alliance between the republican movement and the Irish Communist movement through a National Liberation Front. That was a contributory factor in the split, and the attempt to maintain that alliance continued after the split with formal and high level contacts between the Official republican leadership and the re-unified CPI. That foundered in the mid 1970s due to a combination of factors that will be dealt with in the second volume.
It is also the case that both Coughlan and Roy Johnston were paid up members of the Irish Workers Party at the same time that Johnston was a member of the IRA Army Council and Coughlan was a leading advisor to Cathal Goulding. Indeed Coughlan might well have become more formally involved, had it not been for a January 1966 Ard Comhairle motion proposed by Tom Mitchell which excluded Coughlan from the Sinn Féin/IRA education department on the grounds that the republican constitution banned members of Communist organisations. That again is a matter of record.
The membership lists in the CPI archives are conclusive. They are clearly IWP membership lists and not as disingenuously claimed, subscription lists for the Party bulletin. I believe that this issue has been put to bed. One of those lists is available on several internet forums and of course the other lists are in the CP archive itself.
I do not need a motive to record historical facts! Indeed the implication of the attacks on me is that I ought to have pretended that the lists did not exist at all. The overlapping membership of key individuals is, however, important and opens up different interpretations of what happened within the republican movement in the 1960s. The evidence is there. People may interpret it as they wish. Some, however, prefer to engage in disingenuous ad hominen attacks on myself rather than engage with the facts.
Finally, I again note Coughlan’s promise to deposit the Greaves journals in a public archive. He has had them for a long time now and, unedited, they would be a valuable contribution to the historical record. Until now, we only have Roy Johnston’s extensive use of extracts to thank for what is clearly a unique insight into the period under review.
Prior discussion at: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/102794