Irish anarchist interviewed about the 1970s and 80s (part 1)

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Belfast Anarchist banner at a Peoples Democracy march (1969?)

Belfast Anarchist banner at a Peoples Democracy march (1969?)

As a teenager Alan MacSimoin joined the Official Republican Movement but soon moved towards anarchism, later being a founder member of the Workers Solidarity Movement.

In this interview filmed in October 2014 he talks about republican debates about militarism and mass politics, the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, the Peoples Democracy march from Belfast to Dublin, the successful anti-nuclear campaign of the late 1970s and the Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike of the mid-1980s.

The man beside Alan on the picket at Dunnes Stores in Dublin's Henry Street is fellow WSM member Eddie Conlon,  later Honorary Secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland.

The man beside Alan is fellow WSM member Eddie Conlon, later Honorary Secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland.

The interview was conducted by the Irish Republican and Marxist History Project, and is at

http://irishrepublicanmarxisthistoryproject.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/alan-macsimoin-long-time-anarchist-activist/

 

Red Rag (1975)

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This little magazine was published by the William Thompson Republican Club, which was formed by two members of the Official Republican Movement (i.e. Official Sinn Fein/Workers Party and Official IRA) who were school students at Newpark Comprehensive School in south Dublin.  It is interesting that as late as 1975 an obviously anarchist influenced publication could come from within a movement which was being increasingly dominated by Stalinism.

The editor, a then 17 year old teenager, remembers

We produced about 100 copies of this on a Gestetner duplicating machine and had no problem selling them in a school of about 550 students.  

Although the pro-Soviet Union crowd didn’t like it – at one internal OSF meeting Eoin O Murchu denounced it as ultra leftist for opposing exam-based education – we were not censured or told to stop by the leadership.  However a second issue never appeared as both of us finished school that summer, and none of the sympathisers we drew to the Club actually joined Official Sinn Fein.  

It was also shortly afterwards that I resigned from the Movement because of its decision to regard the Soviet Bloc countries as “actually existing socialism” and to describe the 1956 Hungarian uprising as fascist.

Outta Control – Belfast – January 1983

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The cover story tells of how the British Army were able to veto the building of new houses on Belfast’s Crumlin Road, despite the Housing Executive, the Planning Office, and the local community association all being in favour of the development. It goes on to report that Housing Executive managers were holding regular meetings with the Army, and that Belfast Development Officer John Steel had been photographed in military uniform during a visit by the Queen to Hillsborough Castle.

Their Dublin correspondent details the fatal shooting – in the back of the neck and while unarmed – of Eamon Byrne. Byrne was a known robber whose life had previously been threatened by Gardai.

Other stories look at Northern Ireland Electricity’s heartless treatment of families in debt; plastic bullets; the Shoot-To-Kill policy of the RUC and British Army which saw seven unarmed men killed in an eight week period; and how the punk band Crass and 50 friends occupied a disused music venue in London, repelled the police and gave a free concert to 1,500 fans.

Red & Black Revolution 1 – 1994

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The annual magazine of the Workers Solidarity Movement, which was published from 1994 to 2009 when it was replaced by the Irish Anarchist Review.  Circulation was 1,000 per issue.

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This issue’s contents, as described in the magazine:

The Left…Ashes to Phoenix? Part One
It has become something of a cliche is say the left is dead. But few have explained this supposed death. New organisations have arisen in recent years that claim to be avoiding the mistakes of the past. How true is this claim? Andrew Flood examines the evidence and comes up with some disturbing conclusions.

The Left…Ashes to Phoenix? Part Two

The left to-day, demoralised by its collapse is without focus or direction. Anarchism given its anti-authoritarian tradition should be able to offer a way forward. But many are reluctant to take up anarchism, Andrew Flood looks at some of the reasons why this is so and suggests the key organisational ideas needed for a new anarchist movement.

Lessons Of Trade Union Fightback

Following the vote on the Programme for Competitiveness and Work at the end of March, the Trade Union Fightback (TUF) campaign was wound up. Here Gregor Kerr, an INTO member who was secretary of TUF, looks at the history and lessons of the campaign.

Freedom & Revolution

Does the end justify the means? Many on the left believe so. Aileen O’Carroll argues that the means used play a part in creating the end that is achieved. The best example of this is the Russian Revolution of 1917

Marx & the State

Some Marxists claim Marx was a libertarian, and Leninism and social democracy are not really Marxist. But in doing so they ignore the anarchist critique of Marx’s political ideas on the state, the party and the organisation of a socialist revolution. Conor Mc Loughlin looks at the contradictions within Marx’s political writings.

Syndicialism: Strenghts and Weakness

The main organisational form in libertarian politics today is syndicalism. Alan MacSimon, a delegate to Dublin Council of Trade Unions who has also attended a European gathering of revolutionary unions looks at the potential, and limits, of syndicalism.

Review: Grassroots democracy

Democracy has broken out in a range of countries in recent years – Guatemala, S. Korea and Argentina to name but a few. But, what is the reality? Kevin Doyle looks at a book that takes a more critical eye.

The EZLN

On New Years Day of ’94 people awoke to the news that four towns in the south-eastern state of Chiapas had been taken over by a group calling itself the Zapatista National Liberation Army. Dermot Sreenan, who recently presented a talk on the EZLN and organised a picket of the Mexican embassy in January ’94, looks at the politics and history of the EZLN.

Outta Control – Belfast – November 1982

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The cover story is about the Health Board boss, Ernest Kirkpatrick, who also ran a company which used blood pressure gauges stolen from Craigavon hospital and then sold the finished products back to the NHS. Kirkpatrick also conned the health service into buying him a luxury house. Sharing the front page is an article by the Moyard Housing Action Committee about the sewage problem on their estate which led to an outbreak of polio.

Inside there is an interview with two shop stewards about the strike for union recognition at Eastwoods scrapyard (a major employer in West Belfast and owned by the same ‘Mr Eastwood’ who was boxer Barry McGuigan’s manager).

Their Dublin correspondent reports from the campaign against the amendment which put the ban on abortion into the Constitution. How the anti-choice brigade got the Black Sheep pub in Coolock to cancel a room booking for an anti-amendment public meeting, and then tried to break up an outdoor meeting organised as an alternative.

Other pieces cover segregation of loyalist and republican prisoners, a Channel 4 tv programme about animal experimentation, John DeLorean (he of the gull-winged car, as seen in Back to the Future) and his move from motor manufacturer to cocaine dealer, and one on religion taken from the Dublin Anarchist Collective’s Nobody Rules OK pamphlet

Self Control – Belfast – March 1980

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Outta Control was a monthly bulletin from the Belfast Anarchist Collective who published 42 issues from 1980 to 1984. The first issue was titled Self-Control, after much joking that the title seemed more appropriate to an anti-masturbation tract, it was changed to Outta Control from no.2 onwards.

The BAC also ran a bookshop, Just Books, at 7 Winetavern Street (where the Castlecourt Shopping Centre now stands). The shop opened in June 1978 and finally closed 16 years later in June 1994.

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Contents of this issue include the republican prison struggle in the H-Blocks, the court case for conjugal rights taken by anarchist prisoners Marie and Noel Murray, and a piece accusing local punk-pop band Stiff Little Fingers of “selling out” because they signed to a major record label.

Scab newspaper in Dublin condemns Anarchism (1913)

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The ToilerDuring the 1913 Dublin Lockout (when the employers tried to crush militant trade unionism by locking out members of the Irish Transport & General Workers Union) bosses and clergy brought out their own propaganda.

The above cutting is from ‘The Toiler’, an employer backed paper set up to counter the influence of ‘The Irish Worker’. It collapsed after 14 weeks.  There was also ‘The Liberator’ which appeared for a few weeks in August 1913.  Both papers claimed to be for ‘respectable’ and ‘moderate trade unionism’ but their only connection with unions was their support for the yellow unions set up by priests like Fr Patrick Flavin’s ‘Workers Union’ in Dun Laoghaire, and the ‘Independent Labour Union’ set up by another priest to break the agricultural labourers strike in north Dublin.  These ‘unions’ had no real existence and disappeared within weeks.

 

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