An Anarchist Communist in Dublin (1894)

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From the Irish Times of April 26th 1894

What makes this newspaper report interesting is that it confirms that some form of anarchist organisation existed in Dublin after the demise of the Socialist League, whose Dublin branch was overwhelmingly anarchist, in 1887.   Indeed, as Fintan Lane has written in his Practical Anarchists We: “Nevertheless, at the end of the 1880s anarchism still had a real presence in Dublin, in part sustained by solidarity work for the ‘Chicago anarchists’, men convicted, on threadbare evidence, for alleged involvement in the Haymarket attack of August 1886, when a bomb was thrown at police in Chicago.  Meetings and debates on the issue were organised, with one event held in October 1887, weeks before four of the men were executed.

Moreover, Thomas Fitzpatrick travelled to Chicago in August 1888, returning the following year to give a ‘first-hand’ history of the case at a packed public meeting on 11 November, the second anniversary of the executions.  There were also visits to Dublin by leading international anarchists, such as Max Nettlau (April 1888) and the Irish-born Dr John Creaghe (November 1889).  Creaghe probably attended Fitzpatrick’s public meeting; he was present primarily to participate in a discussion at the Progressist Club on ‘Anarchism versus Democracy’, a debate that lasted three evenings because of ‘the great number desirous of speaking’.”

The Central Lecture Hall was at 12 Westmoreland Street, later the home of Bewley’s Cafe and today a Starbucks.

The guest speaker, Fauset McDonald, was a doctor specialising in tropical diseases and one of the founders of the British fortnightly paper The Commonweal.  He later moved away from anarchism and was a member of Socialist Parties in Australia and New Zealand in the late 1890s and 1900s.

However it transpired that McDonald had also become a racialist.  He was condemned by his former comrades in an editorial in the “Commonweal” in July 1907 when he became president of the New Zealand White Race League (which opposed Chinese immigration)..

A Wee Black Booke of Belfast Anarchism (1867-1973)

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Historian Mairtin O Cathain’s A Wee Black Booke pulls together reports of anarchism in and around Belfast in the years from 1867 to 1973.  With no local movement for much of this period, the pamphlet looks at some individuals whose political activity merited mention in the media of the time. O Cathain’s work stops before the emergence in the late 1970s of the groups from which contemporary organisations Workers Solidarity Movement and Organise can trace their roots.

Some readers will be aware of the Irish Citizen Army’s Captain Jack White who became an anarchist after seeing the Spanish revolution in practice. The others will be unknown to all but historians. Bolton Hall and William Baillie emigrated to the USA, where Hall was involved in communal experiments, propaganda, and union organising.  Baillie was more of an individualist, though he still realised that “personal freedom was tied inexorably to collective and economic freedom.”

John McAra was a Scottish anarchist who came to speak in Belfast, where he was arrested and jailed. A group did form from his activity, but appears to have died away after the First World War.  Jack McMullen was a public speaker and socialist with anarchist sympathies, who campaigned against slum housing and unemployment in the 1920s and 1930s.

Finally there is John McGuffin, a founder member of the Belfast Anarchist Group, who was involved in the early Peoples Democracy and the civil rights movement.