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From Peking to Aubane

category national | miscellaneous | opinion/analysis author Tuesday January 02, 2007 12:55author by Danny McGrain Report this post to the editors

The British and Irish Communist Organisation were a Maoist influenced group who in the 1970s were almost unique in supporting Ulster Unionism. They were prolific publishers and claimed an influence over large numbers of both left and right wing individuals. During the 1990s the core members of the group have embraced a neo-nationalist position and become prominent in debates on Irish historical revisionism.

The roots of the British and Irish Communist Organization lay in Irish émigré politics in London during the 1960s. A number of Irish emigrant radicals became involved in far left politics in London in that era. Some were former republican prisoners such as Gerry Lawless, others young northern students like Eamonn McCann and Mike Farrell. Another young emigrant who entered the milieu was a gravedigger, Brendan Clifford. Many of the activists came together in the Irish Communist Group in the mid 1960s, which was broadly critical of both the Irish republican and pro-Moscow Irish communist traditions. However soon the ICG was torn apart by bitter arguments and split into Trotskyite and Maoist factions. Brendan and Angela Clifford and Jack Lane were among those who endorsed a pro-Peking position and formed their own Irish Communist Organization in 1965. The ICO saw the mainstream communists as ‘revisionists’ who had deserted the revolutionary road after Khrushchev’s denunciation of Joseph Stalin in 1956. The group began to publish detailed critiques of ‘revisionism’ in Ireland and elsewhere. They charged that the southern Irish communists had tailed Catholic nationalism since the 1950s and were in essence no longer revolutionary. They were also strongly anti-Trotskyite. The writings of Stalin became the touchstone for the ICO’s politics and remained so over the next decade. The organization even went as far as to state that the most important thing about Stalin was that in important matters he was ‘never wrong.’ (Stalin and the Irish Working Class). However the ICO also placed itself in the Irish radical tradition and reissued forgotten or unavailable articles by James Connolly and Liam Mellows. At this point the ICO maintained that Ireland remained oppressed by British imperialism and that the six counties were held, illegitimately, by British military force. By 1969 the organization had gained a few supporters in Dublin and Belfast and was active in housing campaigns and trade union politics. It took a pro Chinese and Albanian position in international politics. However as for all on the Irish left the events of August 1969 transformed the ICO. Initially the group considered that the Loyalist attacks on Catholics in Belfast and elsewhere were ‘fascist’ pogroms and that Catholics had a right to military defence. By mid 1970 this view had altered dramatically. The ICO began to argue that the British Army was in fact playing a progressive role in the north by virtue of its preventing a sectarian civil war. The ICO then began to formulate a view, based, they claimed, on Stalin’s writings on the ‘National Question’ which argued that there were two historic nations in Ireland, a Catholic nation in the south and a Protestant nation in the north, both of which were equally entitled to self-determination. By 1971 this view led to the ICO changing its name to the British and Irish Communist Organization (BICO). The adoption of the two nations theory saw BICO completely reject any claim by Irish nationalists to a unitary state as reactionary. They argued that socialist and republican organisations which supported a united Ireland were allied with the ‘Catholic, Nationalist bourgeoisie of the Republic.’ The cause of trouble in the north was ‘not Unionism or the Unionists. Responsibility for it lies at the door of the Southern ruling class which, on the basis of ‘one historic Irish nation’, has pursued a reactionary policy of national oppression for the past 50 years.’ BICO argued that capitalism had developed more rapidly in the north east of Ulster than elsewhere, producing a socially more progressive and dynamic entity. However the south had remained backward and dominated by the Catholic Church. The organization then poured forth a plethora of pamphlets examining the historic roots of capitalism in the north east of Ulster, the ‘right wing’ nature of Irish nationalism and the ‘mythology’ used to justify republican violence. Their research led them to conclude that historically in fact Ulster Unionism was a more progressive and dynamic ideology than Irish nationalism and that as the choice facing Ulster Protestants was between a ‘secular democratic British state’ or a ‘reactionary 26 county Catholic state’ BICO would defend their right to choose the former.
The BICO circulated these ideas far and wide publishing over 50 pamphlets by 1971 and setting up Athol Books as their publishing house. They also put their money where their mouth was, refusing to campaign against internment, arguing the measure was justified in a war situation. BICO contended that the civil rights movement, directed by the IRA, had pushed northern Protestants into a position where they feared the ‘war of 1922’ was being resumed and understandably reacted accordingly. By 1972 the group saw both wings of the IRA as the cutting edge of an irredentist Catholic nationalist movement to subdue Ulster Protestants and felt resistance to them was justified.

BICO were nothing if not iconoclastic and in their vast output of pamphlets and magazines, which included Communist Comment, The Communist, Northern Star and Workers Weekly they exposed the links between the 1940s IRA and the Nazis, the anti-Semitism of 1930s Sinn Fein leader JJ O’Kelly (Scelig), the right wing politics of border campaign martyr Sean South and the inconsistency of any Irish republican claims to socialism. BICO charged that there had been a sectarian aspect to the Tan War IRA’s campaign, especially in west Cork. James Connolly’s support for Imperial Germany was used to illustrate how poor a role model for the Irish left he actually was. BICO claimed that historian Desmond Greaves had invented an acceptable ‘anti-imperialist’ Connolly in order to help the pro-Moscow Irish CP influence the republican movement. Claims by nationalists that Ulster Protestants had an Irish speaking tradition were mocked relentlessly and the anti-Catholic views of many of the United Irish leaders produced as evidence of their lack of connection with twentieth century republicanism. For BICO the most progressive 98’ men were those like Samuel Neilson and William Drennan who eventually became Unionists, because they realised the connection with Britain offered ‘the best framework of social progress.’ The BICO did not suffer from a lack of self-esteem; often presenting their arguments in terms that assumed the whole world was listening. Their critics were not taken seriously with BICO claiming that ‘the minds of our bourgeois opponents are so predictable that their ideas are destroyed in the (Workers) Weekly before they form in their little minds.’ Indeed Brendan Clifford boasted in 1974 that the group’s ‘social influence’ was growing among ‘large numbers of people who have never read a BICO publication.’ Whatever about those who had never read a BICO publication it was true that some of those that had, were indeed suitably impressed. David Trimble, then a Vanguard activist, was an avid consumer of BICO material, as were young academics Paul Bew and Henry Patterson. Jim Kemmy in Limerick took onboard their analysis of the national question and certainly Eoghan Harris ‘borrowed’ much from BICO’s writings, often passing them off as his own insights. Typically BICO even claimed that Conor Cruise O’Brien had stolen his own two-nations theory from them. The organization remained small but it did attract some young members, among them Jeff Dudgeon, Kate Hoey, Carmel Roulston, Brian Girvin, Rosheen Callender, Manus O’Riordan, Peter Cassells and Mick Raftery. However the BICO’s Stalinism was a bit off putting to the wider public and they had more success with their front organization the ‘Workers Association for a Democratic Settlement in Northern Ireland’ which attracted some support for its campaign to delete articles two and three from the southern Irish constitution. Similarly the Campaign for the Separation of Church and State and later the Socialists against Nationalism organisation were influenced by BICO while presenting their views in more palatable forms. Of course many remained unimpressed and Belfast wits referred to the organisation as the ‘Peking Lodge of the Orange Order’ and the ‘British and Irish Communist Orangemen.’

However along with the exaggerated sense of their own importance perhaps the least appealing aspect of BICO was their ugly vitriolic rhetoric, which at times bordered on anti-Catholic sectarianism. While they saw the assassination campaigns of the UDA and UVF as counter productive and un-necessary they were, according to BICO, ultimately only a response to IRA provocation. Loyalist ideology was never subjected to the vitriolic denunciations that all varieties of Irish nationalism were. For BICO Irish republicanism was simply ‘the malevolent insular ideology of a tatty-rag bag crowd of altar hugging gombeen men.’ (Workers Association, 12/10/74). BICO publications tended towards character assassination, waging a particularly vindictive campaign against Seamus Heaney, who they saw as the cultural embodiment of the back ward Catholic peasantry. They hailed that Ulster Workers Council strike of May 1974 as a triumph of Protestant proletarian solidarity against Dublin and SDLP rule. In fact BICO actively took part in support for the stoppage, distributing thousands of their bulletins in east Belfast, arguing that the SDLP, rather than any Loyalist group represented the closest thing to ‘fascism’ in Ireland. Brendan Clifford reacted to left wing criticism of the strike by declaring that ‘Catholics had never been safer’ in Belfast than during the period of the UWC stoppage. BICO actively sought contact and discussion with both the UDA and UVF, regarding them as having much more progressive potential than any republican group. When the IRA killed 21 people in Birmingham and Irish people in the city were attacked in response, BICO argued that such a reaction was ‘not totally unjustified’ because most Irish emigrants had refused to break from Irish nationalism, the ‘vicious ideology’ that bred ‘Ireland’s right wing terrorists.’ Unless Irish people in Britain rejected this ‘revolting’ Catholic nationalism then they would unfortunately be targeted by British workers looking for revenge after atrocities, just as innocent Catholics had borne the burnt of legitimate Loyalist anger in Northern Ireland. BICO instead called on British and Irish workers to ‘smash’ IRA terror.

Having decided that the left was entirely wrong about Ireland the BICO also took them to task on other questions. They were among the first to argue that the European Economic Community was to be welcomed, not rejected. While the left almost universally backed the Palestinians, BICO argued that Israel not only had a right to exist but that Zionism had a democratic potential completely lacking in Arab nationalism. Critics of Israel were accused of pandering to backward Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Semitism. Stalin had, after all, supported the setting up of the Zionist state in 1948. When the left opposed the rise of racism in Britain, BICO published How Right are the Racists? putting forward a Marxist case for immigration controls. Whisper it quietly but when the world recoiled in horror from the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia the BICO argued that Pol Pot had been not entirely wrong.

But by the 1980s the shock value of the organization was wearing thin and those talented or lucky enough, departed to more profitable climes; trade union officialdom, gay rights activism and the British and Irish Labour parties. Peking and Tirana were abandoned and the Ernest Bevin Society formed, for reasons still unclear. The BICO soldiered on, denouncing supporters of the Birmingham Six as ‘professional Paddies’ seeking redress for ‘pub bombers.’ (Workers Weekly, 30/2/88) They even suggested that nationalists targeted by Loyalists were ‘asking for it’ in the tense atmosphere after the Enniskillen bombing in 1987. That year Brendan Clifford became embroiled in a legal action with Mary McAleese after he accused Queens University Belfast of appointing her to a position, though she was not (in Clifford’s view) the most fully qualified candidate, in order to appease nationalist pressure groups. The disappointed Unionist (and presumably qualified) candidate for McAleese’s post? One David Trimble. In the early 1990s Athol Books published Pat Walsh’s Irish Republicanism and Socialism a comprehensive demolition of any claims by republicanism to progressive politics. Walsh argued that Arthur Griffith, Scelig, Brian O’Higgins and Sean South were more representative of Irish republicanism in the 20th century than James Connolly, Peadar O’Donnell or Liam Mellows.

However Walsh’s book was perhaps the last of the old style BICO publications. At some point in the mid 1990s, coinciding perhaps with the IRA ceasefires, the Cliffords, Lane and their supporters re-constituted themselves as the Aubane Historical Society. Workers Weekly was subsumed into the Irish Political Review. Then a conversion, unparalleled since St. Paul on the road to Damascus or at least since Mo Johnston signed for Glasgow Rangers, took place. Athol Books began to publish furious attacks on revisionist historians and commentators such as Paul Bew and Eoghan Harris and to defend popular nationalist history such as Neil Jordan’s movie Michael Collins. But the temperature dramatically increased when the Canadian historian Peter Hart published The IRA and its Enemies in 1998. The Aubane Historical Society began a campaign, continued to the present day, to present Hart’s work as part of a broader British inspired plot to destroy the historical memory of the independence struggle in Ireland. Along the way they questioned the right to Irish nationality of those from Anglo-Irish backgrounds, accusing Fianna Fail’s Martin Mansergh of being, in effect, a pro-British influence in that party. By 2006 the Irish Political Review was uncritically supporting Sinn Fein’s political project, dismissing critics of the party as inspired by ‘securocrat’ sources. Indeed the IPR was possibly the only journal to suggest that the blame for Robert MacCartney’s death lay with the activities of his ‘drug dealing’ friend, rather than with the IRA. Now Zionism was most definitely out and the Islamic world in, the Angelus on RTE seen as a sign of political independence and Athol Books published a largely uncritical study of JJ O’Kelly (Scelig). Connolly’s support for the Kaiser now became evidence of his historical correctness rather than his weakness. All of which is both greatly surprising and entertaining for those of us who remember them in the old days but raises the obvious question as to why? Some cynics conclude that it is simply a gigantic intellectual jape on the part of Brendan Clifford, who having convinced all manner of guilty southern liberals during the 1970s that the Protestants of the north deserved their own state, has now decided to see if he can convince old style southern nationalists that the time is right for a revival of 1940s Fianna Fail republicanism. Having spotted the growing southern trend to wash its hands of the north during the 1970s and seeing how an intellectual justification could be provided for the abandonment of northern nationalists, the artists formerly known as BICO have decided that its time to jump on the bandwagon of John Water’s type resentment at ‘liberal’ Ireland. Indeed if their current campaign to rehabilitate the memory of Charles J Haughey succeeds it will probably exceed any achievements they may have had in influencing David Trimble’s or Conor Cruise O’Brien’s world view during the 1970s!

Note: A wide variety of BICO and their various front groups publications are available in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin and the Linenhall Library, Belfast

author by anarchyvist - Boring Ireland Clear Offpublication date Tue Jan 02, 2007 17:40Report this post to the editors

As a student in Trinity back in the '80s, I worked for a while on the political bumf of the '60s and '70s kept in the library and went on to compare the Trinity assemblage with the much better known Linen Hall collection.

The TCD collection was smaller, but perhaps more representative of the material produced by what were to become the Sticks by the middle of the '70s. And especially the core Gardiner Place crowd, now of course holding senior positions in the Cruiser's Labour Party.

There was less from explicitly civil rights', or, ahem... associated Trot groups such as PD. This seems to reflect a bias shown by northern academics, who appear to have donated much of the material picked up on trips back home to the Mammy in Malone, Seaforde or Ballinamallard. They didn't really mix in such circles.

But BICO material was certainly consumed in Dublin by the barrow load, confirmed by one academic who told me about being stopped late one November night in '75 by the UDR on a small road outside Lurgan. The troops were initially more interested in the engine in the boot of his VW Beetle than in what was under the bonnet. This was filled with copies of whatever paper BICO was producing at the time and was not perhaps the periodical that one would choose to have hundreds of copies of in one's possession, especially in this particular neck of the woods where levels of literacy were not particularly high.

In any event, he was saved by the headline on the cover of the paper which praised the UWC strikers as paragons of socialist virtue.

BICO was actually paying the hapless bloke petrol money to bring thousands of their publications into the Free State and indeed, he was not the only Trinity lecturer on the payroll. Second hand book shops in the city were filled to capacity with this material by the middle of the '80s. It is unfortunately unavailable nowadays.

The only serious nationalist (and I use this word carefully) opinions articulated in Trinity at the time were those produced by the CPI (M-L), and this despite several senior SU apparatchiks being from the Six Counties. Although from a different (and much less Groucho- Marxist root in the miniscule British and Irish left) the BICO line was always there in the background, although by the middle of the '80s, the more republican 'Spirit of Freedom' sub-group had won out, the younger tendency having been politicised by the Hunger Strikes. A leading Irish member of this group now edits History Ireland, which has done as much as Indy over the past year or so to keep the Peter Hart affair bubbling over.

I didn't know that Clifford was still around. Of course Aubane is a joke, I'm surprised that Brendan never got the stand up show on RTÉ that he so richly deserved, especially now that the Sticks are back in charge.

author by MacSwineypublication date Tue Jan 02, 2007 18:46Report this post to the editors

This brings me back...I'd blocked out so many of the memories of how annoying and arrogant the B and ICO used to be! I remember their atttiude to the question of Isreal basically being that the Isrealis were hard working, modern, progressive, Ulster prods essentially and the Palestinains were backward, religious zealots who had produced nothing of worth in 200 years, Irish Catholics basically! They were something else and even more vindictive than the above piece mentions. Amazed they are still at it and even more amazed that they seem to have undergone a political lobotomy!

author by Suspiciouspublication date Tue Jan 02, 2007 19:42Report this post to the editors

Obviously this is some oul' fellas debate, but to an outside it seems a little bit suspicious that the following points are swept under the table:

First ,that Peter Hart seems indeed to be engaged in some questionable practices to produce a history which paints the IRA of the time as a sectarian, ethnic-cleansing organisation.

Second, that there is a reasonable case to be made that if Northern Unionists wish for a state separate from Ireland they have the same right to self-determination that Ireland does from the UK.

Third, that there are right-wing, religious elements present in Irish nationalism.

All that said, an interesting exegesis into the origins of the Aubane Historical Society, whose works I always enjoy reading here on Indymedia.ie

author by Irish MLpublication date Wed Jan 03, 2007 08:20Report this post to the editors

Thanks for this article, a very interesting review and well researched. Is your article based on documents you have yourself or material from the various libraries? You mention one text 'Stalin and the Irish National Question' - is there any chance you could upload this text to a website?

author by Aubane reader - -publication date Wed Jan 03, 2007 13:18Report this post to the editors

Interesting article, I was familiar with most of its content.

However, my interpretation of their evolution is slightly different.

The group always argued that the 6 counties were an anti democratic and failed entity, but differed as to the reasons why.

At first, they said it was because the 6cos were oppressed by British imperialism.

Then they said it was because of 26 cos irredentism.

In the 1980s they argued that 6cos were anti democratic because it was not fully integrated within the UK state.

When their efforts to influence the so-called "integrationist" wing of the UUP failed, they finally argued (as they still do today) that the 6cos are a failed entity because they are not fully integrated by the institutions of the 26cos state.

They are members of the IRish Labour Party -Mark Langhammer is one of their councillors.

The IPR has bizarre arguments that German imperialism was more progressive than British imperialism and publish obscure material on German colonialism in Africa.

author by Single Endpublication date Wed Jan 03, 2007 16:43Report this post to the editors

A very interesting article. Added a lot of stuff I had never heard before and though written possibly from a slightly Irish nationalist perspective, I think, overall quite a balanced read. I always read stuff from Clifford and the gang and as an historian I always enjoyed their iconoclasm, whilst realising, of course, that it was being employed to service a particular political view. Maybe it was the Maoist roots but they did always appear to be completely barking, and were it not for the talent of some of their line-up (though I hate to admit it), as well as having more than their fair share of academics, they would never have had the influence that they did. I know they can be a bit tedious and of late they have done a Slobadon of sorts, but I still look forward to what Aubane produces. Sorry to hear that Hart is persona non grata, I wouldn't be his greatest fan and there is a whole transatlantic mistranslation happening at times there, but he has done some really penetrating work, and unusually for an academic historian he is actually quite readable.

author by Pol Potpublication date Wed Jan 03, 2007 17:28Report this post to the editors

Was Peter Cassells a member? Not too sure about that. A couple of other ICTU officials, Tom Wall and Stephen MacCarthy were in BICO though

author by anonpublication date Thu Jan 04, 2007 00:16Report this post to the editors

Jack Lane (formerly a honcho in the BICO) is the point man in North Cork with the 'Aubane Historical Society' and when they published Sean Moylan's biography some time back (Moylan, former IRA leader, later Fianna Fail TD!!!), they had FF minister Eamon O Cuiv down to do the launch. In fact, the AHS later published Young Devs speech as well!

A strange crowd indeed.

author by Archivistpublication date Thu Jan 04, 2007 03:40Report this post to the editors

Not much of the British & Irish Communist Organisation's own material is available online but some publications from the various controversies sparked by them are on the web.

For example, there is a pamphlet produced by Militant, the predecessor of the Socialist Party, in 1974 arguing against the politics of the B&ICO in the archive section of the Socialist Party website. The pamphlet argues against the B&ICO view that there were "two nations" in Ireland and in particular their advocacy of a split in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions along what would inevitably be religious lines. The Socialist Party archive, by the way, contains a huge amount of old articles, many of them of great interest to the few of us with an interest in the history of the Irish left, but it is in serious need of better organisation.

http://www.geocities.com/socialistparty/Publications/FW...o.htm

The Socialist Party archives can be found at the links below:
http://www.socialistparty.net/pub/news/niarchive.htm
http://www.socialistparty.net/publications.htm

Getting back to the subject of the B&ICO and its successor organisations, an archive of articles from some of their associated publications is available at the link below. Unfortunately it only dates back to 1987, a period when their Unionism was less virulent than in their 1970s incarnation:

http://www.atholbooks.org/timecapsule/main.php

Archives of the Irish Political Review / Northern Star, another associated publication, are also available but these only go back to 2002, by which stage of course they were once more Nationalists of a sort:

http://www.atholbooks.org/archives/pastipr/iprindex.php

author by Danny McGrainpublication date Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:26Report this post to the editors

Thanks for the worthwhile comments on this. I doubt if 'Stalin and the Irish Working Class' is available online. The original is in several libraries though. Yes this is something of an 'oul fellas' debate. You'll be an 'oul fella' yourself some day, so don't knock it son. I concede the BICO view was probably a little bit more nuanced at various stages than I outlined. But if you heard them go at it and freely throw around terms like 'Catholic bigots' and 'sectarian fascists' then you would sometimes neglect the nuance. I seem to remember Cassells being around; could be wrong. The origins of my interest were sparked by going for a cup of tea in the Culturlann on the Falls a couple of years ago. I bought a copy of the Irish Political Review and was reading about all the west Cork stuff when a few names caught my eye. I thought this can't be the same people but when I looked it up on the internet it did seem to be. Coming from a nationalist background, but being more than aware of what goes on here I was a bit stunned that people were absolving the Chucks of any involvement in anything and completly swallowing the 'secrocrat' line. But the historical debate was even funnier because the first time I had ever heard about any persecution of Protestants in the south was from BICO publications in the 1970s. On and off I kept up reading the IPR and also checked out my own attic for any stuff that I still had, amazingly there was a few old Workers Weeklys. Eventually I decided to try and put something down and having come acorss a lot of the Aubane material here on Indymedia I reckoned this was the best place. I'm still confused as to whether they were really a nasty sect who wanted to be an intellectual ginger group to the UDA/UVF and/or the Unionist Party and are now trying to be a ginger group to old style nationalists or if they were right all along! I should have mentiuoned that the BICO did have a sense of humour. Except when you laughed at them...

author by Danny McGrainpublication date Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:45Report this post to the editors

Also should have mentioned that there is mention of this in Ray MacAnais biography of Mary McAleese and in Rory Godson's book on Trimble.

author by Sweet Rosie O'Gradypublication date Mon Jan 08, 2007 16:31Report this post to the editors

Where exactly is Aubane and what is the significance of its history? Just heard Manus O'Riordan on Joe Duffy talking about Sean Russell. he seemed to support there being a new statue. I don't understand much of this.

author by The fact checkerpublication date Mon Jan 08, 2007 22:09Report this post to the editors

O'Riordan's position is quite straight forward, as expressed in this criticism of the Sunday Independent's resident Special Branch correspondent, Jim Cusack. It sets the record straight on Sean Russell, who was accompanied in his trip back to Ireland in a German U-Boat by Frank Ryan, the International Brigade anti-fascist who was imprisoned by Franco and then released into Nazi custody. Ryan returned to Germany after Russell collapsed and died on the U-Boat. Who was using who? O'Riordan has advanced the interesting theory that Ryan acted as an agent for the Irish government in Germany (and that de Valera more or less acknowledged this at the end of his life).

(The discussion above, while interesting, seems to me to have some facts awry. For instance, I don't think Martin Mansergh was ever accused by Brendan Clifford of being a British propagandist. Mansergh's father, Nicholas, was, but not the son, Martin (who was mightily miffed by the suggestion, it has to be said).

The Sunday Independent (Ireland) January 9, 2005

RUSSELL, KNAVE OR NAIVE?

Sir - Sean Russell was a man whom de Valera once considered worth making the effort to save from himself. Russell had given sterling service in the 20th century's first war for democracy - the Irish War of Independence fought to give effect to the democratic mandate of the 1918 Elections. But having failed to persuade Russell to accept the democratic mandate of his later Republican election victories of the Thirties, de Valera was left with no option but to act ruthlessly and with resolve against Russell and his IRA followers.

By all means condemn Russell, as I have always done, for his actions in defiance of de Valera, specifically his 1939 bombing campaign in England, followed by his request for German aid to mount an IRA invasion of the North. If Russell's plan had materialised it would have had the knock-on effect of either a German or British invasion and occupation of Southern Ireland, bringing to nought de Valera's skillful safeguarding of this State from both war and fascism.

Condemnation of Russell is one thing; character assassination is quite a different matter. Russell was not the Holocaust-championing caricature painted by the so-called "anti-fascist" gang responsible for the paramilitary destruction of his monument on December 30. Nor is your report by Jim Cusack (January 2) accurate in stating that it had previously "been vandalised by communists in the Fifties" because it originally was supposed to have had Russell's arm "raised in a Nazi-style salute". On the contrary, it had originally been a clenched-fist, which was denounced as "communist" by the anti-semitic and clerical-fascist organisation Maria Duce, who then proceeded to amputate the offending Russell arm.

The facts regarding Russell and Nazi Germany are as follows: The UK Public Records Office has released files which show that after intensive post-War interrogation of German intelligence agents at the highest level, British intelligence itself concluded in 1946 that "Russell throughout his stay in Germany had shown considerable reticence towards the Germans and plainly did not regard himself as a German agent".

In his 1958 novelVictors and VanquishedFrancis Stuart observed of the Russell-based character's outspokenness in Berlin: "Pro-German when it comes to the English, and pro-Jew when it's a question of the Germans". One might be forgiven for dismissing this as another of Stuart's literary inventions were it not for the fact that this assessment was corroborated by a far more significant witness - the Austrian Erwin Lahousen, the first and most important witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials in 1945. Lahousen had been head of the second bureau of the German Intelligence Service from 1939 to 1943. A devoutly-religious Catholic, Lahousen loathed Nazism and had been the key figure in an aborted pre-War plot to assassinate Hitler.

By common consent, it was Lahousen's evidence at Nuremberg that ensured that Hitler's foreign minister Ribbentrop would be sentenced to death.

It was the self-same Lahousen who proceeded to offer the following character reference on behalf of Russell: "The Irishman was a hyper-sensitive Celt who, however willing he might be to use the Germans for his own political ends, regarded the Nazi philosophy as anathema". Lahousen said that "Russell was the only one of the IRA with whom I dealt who was a real Irish Republican of the old school": After what Lahousen described as "one of Russell's fiery denunciations of the Nazi attempts to indoctrinate him", the IRA leader further proclaimed:

"I am not a Nazi. I'm not even pro-German. I am an Irishman fighting for the independence of Ireland. The British have been our enemies for hundreds of years. They are the enemies of Germany today. If it suits Germany to give us help to achieve independence I am willing to accept it, but no more, and there must be no strings to the help".

This, of course, was extremely naive. As regards his dealings with Nazi Germany, Russell is to be condemned more as a fool than a knave. But notwithstanding that condemnation, Sean Russell is still entitled to the integrity of his reputation, in death no less than in life.

Manus O'Riordan, Glasnevin, D11

author by seanzmct - nonepublication date Fri Mar 30, 2007 23:46Report this post to the editors

There are some significant holes in the history of BICO outlined above. In the 80's the group centred on Athol Street Belfast morphed into the Ingram Society and was the intellectual substance behind the Campaign for Labour Representation which campaigned stridently for British Labour Party organisation in Northern Ireland on non-sectarian grounds. This campaign attracted many progressive peolple from well beyond the narrow cultish confines of BICO.

The main activists, here apart from Brendan and Angela Clifford were David Morrison ( now active in anti-Iraq war blogging) ; David Gordon ( now an excellent investigative journalist with the Belfast Telegraph ; Jeff Dudgeon and Sean McGouran ( gay rights campaigners , Mark Langhammer now on the Irish Labour Party National Executive; Eamon O'Kane ,Boyd Black, Michael Robinson and Sam Gibson( left -wing trade union activists).

The CLRNI was part of the broader Campaign for Equal Citizenship which advocated British parties for Northern Ireland. This group was also headed up by the Unionist Robert McCartney and NI Conservative Lawrence Kennedy whom INLA attempted to assassinate for campaigning for Tory organisation in the north.

Clifford and co supported the " Real Unionist" Westminster election campaign of Robert McCartney in 1987 which narrowly failed to unseat James Kilfedder in North Down. Afterwards this odd coalition disintegrated when McCartney became more interested in internecine Unionist party political disputes. The CLRNI also ran Mark Langhammer as a Labour Representation candidate in the 1989 Euro election in the North. CLRNI disbanded itself in the 90's having given up on British Labour organisation , though paradoxiically Clifford continues to analyse the north in terms of its perverse segregation from national left-right politics. In 1996 the Athol Group, now much-diminished, very briefly supported the Labour Coalition which got two candidates elected to the NI Forum.

The CLRNI produced two seminal pamphlets -viz McNamara's Ban ( on British Labour's aversion to organising in N Ireland) and Is Sinn Fein Socialist? The latter is a tightly-argued historical piece on why Sinn Fein is not and never has been essentially socialist.

But given the extraordinary ideological volte face of Clifford and his closest allies into Sinn Fein cheerleaders in the 90's , this pamphlet seems to have been expunged from the Athol Books archive, as have many of the publications from when , for most of its existence, BICO regarded Irish Nationalism as a bourgeois ideology. For example try obtaining the pamphlet " The Democratic Origins of Northern Ireland " from Athol Books .

author by starkadderpublication date Sat May 12, 2007 19:18Report this post to the editors

Very interesting article. Some of the positions taken by the B&ICO/Aubane group on other issues are deeply disturbing.

*The IPR published an article in March 2006, "Could Poland take over Ireland?" attacking immigrants.

*They also published several articles defending the tyrant Milosevic, including one in the April 2006 issue, "Was Milosevic murdered?".

* In addition, anyone who correctly points out Haughey was a crook and a hypocrite is attacked as "self-hating" and an Eoghan Harris-style "West Brit". This is false-Eamonn Mccann and Gene Kerrigan certainly aren't, yet this is the IPR's position.

*They also believe people who are Protestant, like Elizabeth Bowen and Sean O'Casey, have no right to be called Irish. Any sectarian politics like this-judging people by their religion or ethnicity instead of as individuals-is inherently reactionary (and in the case of two such superb writers,also philistine).

*Athol books republished an anti-British pamphlet by Hans Grimm-a German ultra-conservative whose books influenced Nazi ideology. Why would any "left-wing" organisation want to promote this life-long reactionary and apologist for German imperialism? (Maybe they hate British imperialism, but have no problem with German or Serbian imperialism!)

In short, Brendan Clifford and his gang have all the left-wing credentials of the John Birch Society or the Monday Club.

author by Witchfinder Generalpublication date Mon May 14, 2007 09:48Report this post to the editors

Demons in human form, or what?

author by Slim Jim - Jimmy Magee's memory menpublication date Mon May 14, 2007 17:21Report this post to the editors

Not demons in human form or even humans in demon form. or human demons. Just a weird cult. To add to the above the IPR had a long article earlier this year on the 'special position of the Jews' arguing well...just about , kind of, well you know, that they bring all that trouble on themselves basically. Very left wing. Of course they were mad Zionists in the 1970s!

author by Witchfinder Generalpublication date Mon May 14, 2007 21:40Report this post to the editors

Denunciation and gossip ... right up my street. More, please!! Feed my obsession!

author by Loose Cannonpublication date Tue May 15, 2007 13:27Report this post to the editors

Mad nationalists to Mad Unionists to Mad Nationalists to Crazy Lefties to Right Wing Fanatics
- is this the Irish Times we're talking about? Or the Sindo?
Did these Weirdoes allow real live Orangemen to join their Cult?
Here in Holy Ireland?
What is the world coming to ... I just don't know ...

author by HEADBANGERpublication date Wed May 16, 2007 12:10Report this post to the editors

I agree. This weirdo cult is a front for Irish Times/Sindo hacks such as Fintan O'Toole and Eoghan Harris to unsettle everyone and soften them up for their own brand of sweet reasonableness and boring, conventional ideas. It's all smoke and mirrors.

author by starkadderpublication date Wed May 16, 2007 16:12Report this post to the editors

John Lloyd (notable as the New Statesman's worst editor since Paul Johnson, and now an Iraq war supporter) was a member. He has mentioned his membership several times in interviews and articles.

author by HEADBANGERpublication date Wed May 16, 2007 21:46Report this post to the editors

Really? I thought John Lloyd was a Communist Party member? Which was it?

author by Blue Peterpublication date Thu May 17, 2007 10:57Report this post to the editors

Mary Robinson was involved for a while, as were Bob McCartney (unionist pol & Queen's Counsel) and Laurence Kennedy (Belfast surgeon). Also the British Labour MP Kate Hoey but I'm not sure about this. If you think this is a weird meeting of opposites, think back to 18th century freemasonry - George Washington, Mozart, Daniel O'Connell. Of course they were condemned and denounced with bell, book and candle. Rightly so.

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