Irish anarchists “are the least educated of all” (1900)

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chron-extract

In this British newspaper report from the Daily Chronicle of August 8th, 1900 readers are told that Irish anarchists in Britain “are the least educated of all” and “there are no Anarchists in Ireland”.

Leaving aside the stereotype, then common in England, that the Irish were a dim-witted lot, the “no Anarchists in Ireland” assertion is open to question.  What public presence, if any, anarchism had in the 1890s and early 1900s is only beginning to be looked into.  However we now know that there were active anarchist groups in the years before and after, thanks to researchers like Fintan Lane and Mairtin O Cathain.

In the years after the Dublin branch of the Socialist League declared for anarchism in 1886, anarchists like Thomas Fitzpatrick and Michael Gabriel had some influence in the labour movement, as evidenced by their election to the Executive of the National Labour League.

We also know that there was an anarchist group in Belfast in the 1900s. They brought over the Scottish anarchist John McAra, who spoke against the monarchy from the steps of the Belfast Custom House in 1908.  This had resulted in him being charged with sedition, and jailed for three months.

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The Daily Chronicle was a British newspaper published from 1872 to 1930, when it merged with the Daily News to become the News Chronicle, which ceased publication in 1960. It’s political stance was broadly supportive of the Liberal Party.

Thanks to Sam from the excellent Come Here To Me blog for this cutting.

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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.

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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Anarchy magazine, special issue on Ireland (1971)

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Anarchy magazine, edited by Colin Ward, was published from London in the 1960s. A second series, with no direct connection to Ward’s, appeared in the 1970s. Issue no. 6, from 1971, was largely given over to articles written by members of People’s Democracy.

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It kicks off with an introduction looking at the reforms won by the civil rights movement, and the response of the left in Britain to internment.

Next is a detailed account of the police mutiny during the 1907 Belfast dock strike. The author, John Grey, went on to expand this into a book; City in Revolt (Blackstaff Press, 1987). The revolt was sparked by the refusal of Constable William Barrett to escort a wagon driven by a scab, and soon saw the majority of RIC men in the city put forward their own demands for pay and pension increases. The spirit of Larkinism was seen in statements like that condemning their officers for doing “all in their power to humiliate the Belfast police in the eyes of the public by turning them into “blacklegs” – to please their friends the capitalists”.

A biographical article about James Connolly emphasises his syndicalism, but the unknown author gets carried away by his own enthusiasm when he quotes the socialist poet Robert Lynd as proof that Connolly was not only a syndicalist but specifically an anarcho-syndicalist.

The history of People’s Democracy by J. Quinn takes us through the early PD’s development from a student civil rights group to a revolutionary socialist organisation. It gives us a real sense of how the most dynamic left group in the six counties at the time saw things at the beginning of the ’70s.

‘Major Mullen’ (the late John McGuffin) describes his arrest and time in Crumlin Road jail.

The 22 week strike by workers at Cement Limited in Drogheda and Limerick in 1970 saw PD helping the strikers by picketing scab deliveries coming into small non-union ports like Cushendun, Kilkeel and Ardglass. The Orange state responded with over 100 summonses, numerous arrests and several jail sentences. PD were also accused of responsibility when in Armagh “within the course of two weeks no fewer than 21 lorries owned by scabs mysteriously combusted” and in Newry when “over 200 people came out of their houses and stoned the boat (loaded with scab cement) out of the harbour”.

Finally, there are book reviews looking at the Blueshirts, Church & State in modern Ireland, and anarchism in urban life.

Anarchist Worker (May/June 1978)

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Anarchist Worker, published by the Anarchist Workers Alliance in the late 1970s/early 1980s, can be regarded as one of the forerunners of the Workers Solidarity Movement. The AWA existed in Belfast and Dublin but was always more of an idea than a reality, with membership never going into double figures. The print run was about 750 (ranging from 500 to 1,500).

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As befits a first issue, we get a page about the Anarchist Workers Alliance and why it was formed. Other articles look at the McDonalds strike for union recognition, the PAYE tax protests, the post office strike, the H-Block & Armagh prison protests, and the six county Payment for Debt Act. Longer pieces look at why the CIE craft workers committee collapsed, and the law that legalised contraceptives in the 26 counties. That was Haughey’s ‘Irish solution to an Irish problem’ which required a doctor’s prescription to buy a condom.

The centre pages are given over to an explanation of how the Spanish anarchist CNT union structures itself, with the conclusion that it “tries to abolish the bureaucracy that comes with centralisation by making sure that decisions effecting workers are taken by, and only by, those workers effected.”

Black Rag (February 1978)

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Published from Belfast, with a few supporters in Dublin, it’s aim was to encourage “organising in small affinity (friendship) groups which cooperate in a non-hierarchical way and support individuals or small groups involved in direct action”. Its politics were feminist and there was a concentration on “oppressions” (prison conditions, drug laws, anti-gay laws). There was never a second issue but some of those involved joined the Belfast Anarchist Collective.

Amnesty International gets slated for doing little when anarchists (and ex-Official IRA members) Maire & Noel Murray were sentenced to death for the killing of a garda in Dublin during a bank raid. And in a review of an early Boomtown Rats gig, we see early indications of the Bob Geldorf we all know. “Then came the first of the many pseudo-intellectual lectures to the misguided audience who waited n every word. These varied from the complete overthrow of the system in Ireland to the fact that they wre not making enough money because of the response to their latest album. This sold only 175,000 copies that week.”

Anarchist Worker (October 1979)

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Contents include the (successful) squatting of the Mansion House by families from Dublin’s East Wall unable to get Corporation housing, a strongly secular approach to education, and an emphatic pro-union stance. There is also a double page spread on Anarchism and Religion which uses as its starting point the then recent visit of the Pope.  The article on the last page which criticises punishment shootings, resulted in threats and accusations of “black propaganda” from INLA members.