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.

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Cork Anarchist Conspiracy (October 2003)

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The Cork Anarchist Conspiracy was a local A5 magazine published by anarchists involved with the Cork Autonomous Zone (see page 5). A few were members of the Workers Solidarity Movement but most were not affiliated with any grouping. Four issues were produced from 2003 – 2005.

One of those involved gave this description: “The CAC was an initiative that brought together members of the WSM and other anarchists / libertarians in the Cork area in this period. It aimed to increase and enlarge the anarchist presence in the city and around.

Politically some of those involved were arguing for a more open, less restrictive membership basis for involvement in the CAC – this was very much posed in opposition to the WSM at the time which was viewed by some as being restrictive and dogmatic in a number of respects. The more ‘open’ broader interpretation of what constituted anarchism – that was CAC – was also an organisational formula for those in the group to do more work with one another.

Within the group there were different views on what should be the priorities for anarchists at that point. But we were unified by the feeling / belief that we would be better working together than separate.”

click here to download

This issue has articles on anarchism, privatisation, the CAZ, Crap Job of the Season (‘Oh Think Twice’ restaurant), Cycling and Wars, Skateboarders on collision course with City Council, and fighting the bin tax.

The Rebel Worker (Cork) no.1 (March/April 2008)

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This local newsletter was published by the Cork branch of the Workers Solidarity Movement, who announced that “Rebel Worker will be appearing bimonthly (when possible) and will be distributed both on its own and as an insert in the WSM’s long-standing free newspaper, Workers Solidarity”.  However this plan was abandoned and only this one issue was produced.

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Articles covered ‘co-location’ private hospital plans in Cork city, a short piece on preparations for the 2008 May Day parade in the city, and an interview with an abortion rights activist from the Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group.

Red and Black Revolution 8 – 2004

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Article descriptions as given on the WSM website

The ideas of James Connolly by Oisín Mac Giollamóir
James Connolly is probably the single most important figure in the history of the Irish left. He was an organiser in the IWW in the USA but in Ireland is best known for his role in building the syndicalist phase of Irish union movement and for involving the armed defence body of that union, the Irish Citizens’ Army in the 1916 nationalist insurrection. This left a legacy claimed at one time or another not only by all the Irish left parties but also by the nationalists of Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein.

After the Dust Settles – Lessons from the Summit Protests by Jack White
Despite the very real problems associated with the idea of ‘summit hopping’ and spectacular protest these manifestations have provided a public face of anarchism and at least as importantly have given anarchists an opportunity to work together.

Summit protests and networks by Andrew Flood
The major advantage of the network form of organisation is that it allowed the rapid development and growth of a movement of tens of thousands from a tiny base without significant resources But no single form of organisation, unless it is one that involves the majority of workers, will ever be able to take it on in a straight fight.

Media Mayhem – Anarchists and the Mass Media by Chekov Feeney
This article examines the mainstream media and looks at the various factors which ensure that it effectively works as a propaganda tool for the powerful. It looks at ways in which anarchists can deal with this situation, by creating our own media, but also by challenging the hostility that they habitually encounter from the mainstream. It is mostly based on the experience of the 2004 Mayday protests in Dublin.

Playing the Media Game by Kevin Doyle
Perhaps the two biggest problems in dealing with the media are firstly that the media can, through the questions they ask and the pressures they bring, begin to set the political agenda of the group. Secondly servicing the media machine can take up all a group’s time and energy (to the detriment of the other activity).

Workers Without Bosses – Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina by José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
The original battle cry of Argentinean people “Que se vayan todos” – We want all of them out – that expressed the will to break with the corrupt bureaucracies, with the political class, turned out with all of them staying in the end. These experiences also highlight many of the problems anarchists elsewhere face in the wake of popular risings and they show us that the building of a libertarian society is not a matter of repeating clichés and slogans.

Review: No Global – The People of Ireland versus the Multinationals by Kevin Doyle
No Global appears at a vital time. Anyone who wants to see how the bigger picture has unfolded to date can read in detail about the numerous struggles. But No Global is less clear and less persuasive when it comes to dissecting the political ideas within the environmental movement and the problems these caused

Red And Black Revolution 7 – 2003

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The magazine of the Workers Solidarity Movement, from 2003.  This issue’s contents, as described in the magazine:

Has the Black Block tactic reached the end of its usefulness? by Severino (Barricada Collective)
As class struggle anarchists who recognise the importance of a diversity of tactics in order to attack Capital, the State, and oppression in an effective manner, we see the black bloc as an important tool of struggle. Only one tool among many, but an important one nonetheless.

Where to Now? Anti-capitalist protest – global and local by Gregor Kerr
It is certainly hard to avoid the conclusion that anti-globalisation protests that avoid direct action will kill off the movement, or at least greatly reduce participation in it.

Repressing Abortion in Ireland by Mary Favier (Doctors For Choice)
The Republic of Ireland has one of the most draconian abortion laws in the world. At present abortion may only be performed where continuation of pregnancy poses a ‘real and substantial’ risk to a pregnant woman’s life – about 5 cases per year of 50,000 pregnancies.

Direct Action against the war in Ireland by Andrew Flood
In every country after February 15th the anti-war movement was thus faced with the question of what to do next. In Ireland almost all of the direct action protests were targeted on Shannon airport. More than half dozen successful actions took place, ranging from a large scale breach of the fence in October, to physical attacks on planes as the build up to war escalated.

The dismal failure of the IAWM leadership. A critique of the politics of Trotskyism by Dec McCarthy
After months of regularly attending the Irish Anti-War Movement’s marches and particularly after months of listening to the speeches of the leading lights of the IAWM my head is buzzing with cant and rhetoric and I have that dejected feeling you get when you know you have just lost a chance that won’t be coming around again for a long time.

Industrial Collectivisation during the Spanish Revolution by Deirdre Hogan
Within hours of the start of the Spanish revolution workers had seized control of 3000 enterprises. This included all public transportation services, shipping, electric and power companies, gas and water works, engineering and automobile assembly plants, mines, cement works, textile mills and paper factories, electrical and chemical concerns, glass bottle factories and perfumeries, food processing plants and breweries.

If you want to create Socialism – it must be based on Freedom by James O’Brien
Anarchists also seek to create communism. But for us freedom plays a central role, not only in the future society, but in how we try to get there. That is why, when we talk of communism, we talk of libertarian communism.

Open Borders: The case against immigration controls reviewed by Conor McLoughlin
Most mainstream groups eventually come down clearly in favour of immigration controls and deportations, though arguing for “generosity.” This book takes a position that so far has only won over a small but growing minority and argues for the immediate ending of all border controls.

The trouble with Islam by Andrew Flood
The September 11 attacks, the Afghan war that followed from it and the ongoing war in Israel/Palestine have once again raised the issue of Islam in the minds of many anarchists in Ireland and Britain. Not just because of the role Islam has in shaping those conflicts but also because militant Islam has become a far more noticeable presence on solidarity demonstrations.