An Irish syndicalist in Sweden (1995)

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Ciaran Casey emigrated from Ireland to Sweden in 1975.  Two decades later he was elected International Secretary of his union, the Central Organisation of Swedish Workers (SAC), and Workers Solidarity interviewed him for their Spring 1995 issue.  The SAC, formed in 1910, describes itself as “syndicalist and libertarian socialist”.

It is affiliated to the Red & Black Co-ordination of “unions following the tradition of self-management, anti-authoritarian, anarcho-syndicalist and federalist internationalist labour movement”.  Other affiliates are from Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Poland.

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Anarcho-Syndicalism in Ireland 1984 – 2016

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Anarcho-syndicalism might be said to have arrived in Ireland in the mid-1980s when it was adopted by the Ballymena Anarchist Group.  There had been individual anarcho-syndicalists active in their trade unions previously, including some Dublin supporters of the (British) Syndicalist Workers Federation in the 1960s, but this was it’s first public appearance.

The past three decades can give an impression of there having been numerous shortlived groupings.  The reality is that, despite many changes of it’s name and that of it’s publications, there is a continuity of politics and members.  Essentially, we are seeing different phases in the development of the one organisation.

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Membership was initially based on Antrim town and Ballymena.  By the late 1980s Belfast had more members and it has remained like that since.  Membership has been almost totally north of the border, with just the occasional member in Cork, Kildare and Dublin.

 

1984

saw the creation of Ballymena and Antrim Anarchist Groups. The Ballymena group, some of whom had previously been in the Young Socialists, was in existence for several months before the Antrim group and published two issues of Black Star.  Both groups then went on to jointly publish six issues the Antrim Alternative, with a circulation of 300-500.

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1985 – 1989

The Antrim Alternative was succeeded by an explicitly syndicalist magazine, Organise! the Voice of Anarcho-Syndicalism.  By late 1986 the Ballymena and Antrim Anarchist Groups had changed their name to Organise!  

Organise 5 coverClick here to download

1991 

Belfast Class Struggle Anarchist Group – Initially influenced by the British Class War, this small group from the (loyalist) New Mossley and Rathcoole estates, found their definition of working class too narrow.  A couple of those involved went on to contact Organise! and were involved in that group’s re-emergence.  While still sympathetic to anarcho-syndicalism, it initially described itself as “class struggle anarchist”.

Organise - where we stand 1991Click here to download

1991- 1999

Organise! – IWA  (publication: Rebel Worker). In this period Organise! again became specifically anarcho-syndicalist and the name of the bulletin, for a time a magazine, reverted to Organise – the voice of anarcho-syndicalism.  In 1996 Organise! affiliated to the International Workers Association as it’s Irish section.  By 1999, with a much reduced membership, it found sustaining local activity and their involvement in the IWA increasingly difficult to maintain, and decided to disband.

Rebel Worker 4 coverClick here to download

 

Organise 2:8 coverClick here to download

1999 – 2001

After the dissolution of Organise!-IWA a series of discussions were held by anarcho-syndicalists under the banner of the Syndicalist Solidarity Network.  Those involved created the Anarcho-Synicalist Federation shortly afterwards.  The SSN produced a single issue of Solidarity Magazine.  They also produced the Belfast Solidarity Bulletin.

 Solidarity mag cover Click here to download

 

2001 – 2003

The name changed to Organise! – Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation and they continued to produce the Belfast Solidarity Bulletin.  They also put out 2 issues of Wildcat, a joint bulletin of Organise! and the tiny Anarchist Federation (Ireland).  The AF(I) was very closely connected to the (British) Anarchist Federation.

Resistance 10Click here to download

In it’s brief life, the AF(I) -with a scattering of members in Kildare, Dublin, Warrenpoint and Belfast – produced 10 issues of Resistance, before merging into Organise!

 

2003 – 2012

In 2003 it was announced that “after successful discussions, the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, Anarchist Federation (Ireland), Anarchist Prisoner Support and a number of individuals merged to relaunch Organise!”   Published Working Class Resistance,

WSR10 coverClick here to download

then The Leveller.

Leveller 6 coverClick here to download

This version of Organise! initially attempted to build a broader class struggle anarchist federation becoming specifically syndicalist again, probably by 2005.

 

2012 -2015

The organisation decided to join the British section of the IWA, the Solidarity Federation, as it’s Belfast branch.  Members of Organise! in other parts of Ireland were attached to the Belfast branch.

At the 2013 conference of the Solidarity Federation Belfast was formally admitted and its constitution changed so that it was now the IWA section for Britain and Ireland.  Irish members reserved the option of forming an independent IWA section in Ireland in the future.  Organise! remains the name of the SolidarityFederation (Ireland region). Currently this consists of the Belfast branch, along with members in Lisburn and Portadown.

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In April 2016 they opened an office/meeting room/library at 22 Berry Street in Belfast city centre.

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.

Cork marks 60th anniversary of Spanish Civil War (1997)

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In 1997 a group of Cork socialists got together to put on events to mark the 60th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War and the contribution of the Irish who went over to assist the fight against fascism. The No Pasaran committee was broad based and included Kevin Doyle of the Workers Solidarity Movement, and two history lecturers, Donal O’Driscoil and Fintan Lane, from University College Cork who had written for the WSM’s magazine Red & Black Revolution.

This inclusive composition was reflected in their tributes to anti-fascist fighters from the Communist Party of Ireland, the IRA and the anarchist movement. Among those veterans who spoke at their events were Michael O’Riordan and Peter O’Connor, Irish volunteers in the 15th International Brigade, and Nora Harkin of the Spanish Aid Committee.

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The first No Pasaran bulletin has an interview with Diego Camacho of the CNT, a tribute to Charlie Donnelly, and a short piece about Spanish solidarity with the Liverpool dockers.


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The second one has an interview with Nora Harkin, notice of a workshop on ‘Collectives in the Spanish Civil War’ and of a showing of Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom.

Letters from An Phoblacht/Republican News (1980 & 1996)

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An Phoblacht/Republican News, the weekly paper of Sinn Féin, was Ireland’s biggest selling radical publication throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Twice it published letters about the misuse of the word ‘anarchist’. The first cutting, from May 31st 1980, has two letters taking them to task for talking of “terrorist anarchists”. One of the writers, Cathal McLoughlin, had been a member of the Belfast Anarchist Collective. We have no information about the other writer, Neill Roberts.

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The second cutting, from October 31st 1996, sees the Workers Solidarity Movement complain about AP/RN “turning the word ‘anarchy’ on its head to denote chaos and disorder”.

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This is followed a couple of weeks later by a letter from an anonymous member of Red Action accusing anarchists of being “due to their anti-patriotic nature, reactionary in character” and “counter-revolutionary”.

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Derry Anarchists at protest against the Gulf War (1991)

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Thanks to Derry Anarchists for this photograph.  Taken from the local media archive, it shows a Derry anarchist banner during a ‘No To War In The Gulf’ demonstration in the Guildhall Square around January 1991.

Anarchists at that time had been involved in the campaign locally which held several protests leading up to and during the first ‘Gulf War’.  The campaign also participated in a national anti-Gulf War demonstration in Dublin.  The banner at the time had a clear message ‘Class War Not Gulf War!’

Anarchist stickers – late 1990s

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A series of 16 stickers produced by Workers Solidarity Movement members, they advertised a website with information about anarchism, the WSM and some groups and campaigns supported by anarchists.  Using a web address unconnected to the WSM was to avoid picking up litter fines of €150.00 for each sticker found on a bus shelter, lamppost or traffic sign.

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