The Forgotten Revolution (1974)

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The January 1974 issue of the British Libertarian Struggle included a guest article by Briege McKeown, a member of the Official Republican Movement (the collective name for Official Sinn Fein, the Official IRA and their support group in Britain, Clann na hEireann).

Apart from giving us a glimpse at views once held by the movement that evolved into today’s Workers Party of Ireland, it does contain the strange, or at least very poorly expressed, “British workers must be shown the identity of interests between themselves and those in Belfast, Derry and Dublin.  The Protestant worker in the north of Ireland must be force to face the quandary of his identity crisis by resolutions from British “trade union and left groups telling him that he is Irish and that his enemy is British imperialism, and its native gombeen collaborators in Dublin and Belfast, be they orange or green.”

This monthly paper was published by the Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists (which later renamed itself the Anarchist Workers Association). ORA was part of the ‘platformist’ current within anarchism.

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On the letters page we find someone who signs him/herself simply as ‘R’ expressing a hope “that ORA soon changes its’ policy to one of solidarity with the Provisional IRA’s military struggle”. As an example of the Provos’ left wing credentials the anonymous correspondent writes “Gerry O’Hare, formerly part of the Provo leadership and now in prison in the South, is a left-wing socialist”.

Interestingly, it wasn’t long before O’Hare decommissioned himself from the ranks of the Provos and went off to join Fianna Fail.


Irish anarchist interviewed about the 1970s and 80s (part 2)

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This is the story of Alan MacSimoin a long-time Anarchist activist who, as a young man, joined the Official Republican Movement (Sinn Fein).  MacSimoin was part of the Murray Defence Committee in 1976-77 to stop the state execution of anarchists Noel and Marie Murray for the killing of a member of the police.  He was a founder member of the Workers Solidarity Movement in 1984.


In this interview, filmed in October 2014, MacSimoin talks about the death sentence handed down to Noel and Marie Murray, the H-Block hunger strike, the current crisis within capitalism, also the lack of a response to the Palestinian struggle from western governments, and why socialists need to be a lot positive.

Alan lives in Stoneybatter, where he is involved with the Stoneybatter and Smithfield Peoples History Project and the local campaign against the Water Tax.

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

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


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.

Radical politics in late 1960s/early 1970s Ireland

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As part of his work to preserve the history and memories of Irish left and left republican movements, Mick Healy is hosting a public meeting in Dublin on September 12th.

Alan MacSimoin of the Irish Anarchist History Archive will talk about the group of Official Republicans who moved towards anarchism in the early 1970s, the case of Marie & Noel Murray, and the Dublin left of that period.


Sacco & Vanzetti – the Irish connection

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In 1920, the anarchist Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were sentenced to death in the USA, falsely accused of a robbery and murder.  This was a time when the ruling class had been given a fright by the Russian revolution, and they tried to break the growing socialist, anarchist and trade union movements.

Smithfield Square

Smithfield Square

Sacco & Vanzetti were convicted of murdering two men during the armed robbery of a shoe factory in Massachusetts in 1920. Among the members of the Defence Committee in Boston was Mary Donovan, who had been a Sinn Féin organizer.  Among those in Ireland who took up their case was George Bernard Shaw.

After a controversial trial, a series of appeals, and a large but ultimately unsuccessful international campaign to free them, the two were executed on August 23, 1927.

In 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that “any disgrace should be forever removed from their names”.

North King Street

North King Street

In 1971 Sacco & Vanzetti, an Italian language feature film (with English subtitles) was made, with much of the filming in Dublin.  Among those appearing were Irish actors Cyril Cusack and Milo O’Shea.  The soundtrack was by Ennio Morricone, who also composed the music for spaghetti westerns like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and A Fistful of Dollars.

Anarchist Workers Alliance leaflets (1979/80)

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Some leaflets from the Anarchist Workers Alliance in 1979 and 1980.  First off are two national ones about nuclear power.  The first set out their position, with two points of particular interest.  They, along with almost everyone else at that time, had believed the ‘research’ indicating that oil deposits would be exhausted within thirty years.  There may be a similarity with the “peak oil” argument of the last decade, which was also widely believed but does not appear to have been accurate.  Both of these outcomes will occur, but clearly not as quickly as had been believed by many.

The other point of interest is their rejection of ‘zero growth’ economics, “while we oppose any attempt to bring nuclear power into Ireland (or anywhere else for that matter) we distance ourselves from those who say we don’t need nukes because there should be no increase in energy usage.  Zero growth would mean more poverty, unemployment and lack of facilities.  We need more energy to create socially useful jobs, more facilities for leisure and entertainment, and better living conditions.”

The second leaflet was given out at the 5,000 strong anti-nuclear festival in 1979 at Carnsore in Co Wexford.  It calls for a campaign in the unions to win ‘blacking’ of any work to build nuclear power stations.  At that stage the ESB Officers Association had come out in opposition to nuclear power.

Today Ireland has no nuclear stations, and never had.  An account of how this was achieved is here

The others leaflets are from the AWA’s Dublin branch.
(1) An advertisement for a public meeting in the offices of the Amalgamated Transport & General Workers Union.  Today the ATGWU is part of UNITE, and the hall is now the headquarters of the Samaritans.

(2) A call for industrial action circulated at the tax reform march in late 1979.  The ICTU leadership was trying (successfully) to reassert its control over the more militant Trades Councils who had earlier organised massive demonstrations on working days to demand that more of the tax burden be shifted to the rich.  There is an interview with Sam Nolan of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, where Sam discusses the marches here

(3) A response to the declaration of a “housing emergency” in Dublin.  See here for information about the Dublin Squatters Association of the mid-1970s.

(4) And finally, one produced during the Pope’s 1979 visit to Dublin.  At a time when the Catholic Church and its influence on the state was almost beyond question (with divorce banned, gay sex illegal, and contraception restricted to married couples) it pulls no punches.  Church control of schools is seen as filling “young people’s heads with superstitious drivel about hell, god and other repressive fantasies”.

British anarchists and Ireland in the 1970s

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Coalitions, Libertarian Communism and Ireland

How did British libertarian communists understand the conflict in the north of Ireland, and face up to events there? Did they support specific campaigns for withdrawing British troops out of Ireland?

This article deals with the debate within the British Anarchist Workers Association in 1976, which brought forward views ranging from the belief that the national question had to be solved before socialism came onto the agenda, right through to doubts that imperialism was still a reality in a world of globalised capital.

This paper was given by Tony Zurbrugg at a conference on the life and work of the French anarchist Daniel Guerin.  It was held in Loughborough, England, in 2004

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Dublin Anarchist Group, May Day (1978)

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This was the first leaflet from the Dublin Anarchist Group, and below is a sneering and very inaccurate report from a Stalinist journal of the time.

The DAG only lasted for a year or so before it had a friendly split. The minority got together with some likeminded people from the Belfast Anarchist Collective and formed the Anarchist Workers Alliance. That can be seen as a forerunner of the Workers Solidarity Movement (formed in 1984).

The majority, who favoured a looser and less politically defined group, went on to establish the ABC bookshop in Marlborough Street and published two issues of a magazine called Resistance. Proving that Dublin is a small place, they shared that building with the Socialist Labour Party and the 32 County Feminist Federation.

The DAG’s membership included Jackie Crawford, Hugh McPartlin, Patricia McCarthy, Joan Stephenson, Alan MacSimoin, Don Bennett and Valerie McCarthy

This snippet comes from superSPI, the often humourous magazine of the Socialist Party of Ireland.  This had no connection to today’s party of the same name.  It was a small hardline Stalinist split from from the Official Republican Movement in 1971, which sought to win the Moscow franchise away from the Communist Party.  Over its 11 years of life it never spread beyond Dublin and the remnants ended up in the Labour Party.

Getting three things wrong in just two sentences wasn’t bad going! The leaflet was not distributed in Trinity College but on that year’s Dublin May Day march. The Dublin Anarchist Group didn’t have an office in Rathmines, and not having an office it couldn’t have been courtesy of the Student Christian Movement.

The real story was far less interesting. The Dublin Anarchist Group had been formed a couple of months previously. The Student Christian Movement allowed a multitude of campaign groups to use their address for mail, and the DAG asked if they could also use it for a few weeks until they sorted out their own.

I don’t think there were any Trinity students involved (though I could be wrong), though there was a WUI shop steward from Trinity. There were a couple of students from UCD but a good few of the 25 or so members of the group were ex-republicans (both provo and sticky) or union activists. I can remember people from the CIE works in Inchicore, Dublin County Council, and Ardmore Film Studios.

And whilst talking of ‘interesting’ things, the SPI who covered Ballymun and Tallaght with anti-Provo “Isolate the Gunmen’ posters, had originally funded themselves by an armed raid on Ballymun post office.

**superSPI is available for download at the excellent Left Archive of the Cedar Lounge Revolution blog:

Anarchy magazine – Craigavon New Town (early 1970s)

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From the British Anarchy magazine in the early 1970s (this issue is Second Series, Vol. 10, No.1 but undated), an article by Roger Willis about Craigavon New Town. This was to incorporate Portadown and Lurgan in an urban centre of the future with new houses, lots of jobs and great facilities. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out like that.

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