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

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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.

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.

‘Scattered internationalists: Irish anarchism in the interwar world.’

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Frank Barcena and Irish-American anarchist Pat Read with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain

 

The Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour & Class held a conference on November 13th/14th, 2015 to mark the centenary of the birth of Dr Noel Browne.

Among the contributors was Morris Brodie of Queens University Belfast whose paper, ‘Scattered internationalists: Irish anarchism in the interwar world’, looked at the part played by Irish emigrants in the 1920s & 1930s anarchist movement in Britain and the USA; and at the almost forgotten Irish who fought with anarchist columns in the Spanish Civil War.

This link will bring you to the conference web site and Brodie’s talk begins 22.30 on the audio file for Panel 5 – Ireland and the International Left

The other papers in that panel are David Convery (NUIG) – ‘John Wheatley: Irish-born Minister of Health in Britain’s First Labour Government’ and Liam O’Discin (UCD) – ‘Catholics, Communists and Steelworkers, 1936-1948.’

 

Anarchist newspapers sold by a Dublin newsagent in 1916

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A guest post from Sam of the excellent Come Here To Me blog

After nearly 130 years of production, the anarchist newspaper Freedom moved its operations online last year.  Sadly unable to sustain a regular printed publication in this era, the East London-based Freedom Press now publishes its news and opinions on the web accompanied by a quarterly freesheet and a monthly email digest.  From 1886 to 2014, it was the stalwart organ of the English-speaking anarchist movement and could boast of links with some of the world’s foremost anarchist thinkers including Peter KropokinMarie-Louise Berneri and Colin Ward.

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While reading a copy of Freedom (sub-titled the “Journal of Anarchist Communism”) from March 1916 on the Libcom website, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that along with major cities like London, Manchester, Glasgow and smaller ones such as Plymouth, Yeovil and Falkirk – names and addresses of Freedom newspaper sellers are listed for Dublin and Belfast.

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They were:

“Belfast – W. Robinson, 167 York Street

Dublin – J.C. Kearney, 59 Upper Stephen Street”

Jospeh C. Kearney (c. 1887 to 1946) was a bookseller and stationer who lived above his shop at 59 Upper Stephen Street his whole life. There are a small number of fleeting references to him and his family online. I think it could be assumed that he had some sympathy to socialist or anarchist politics he was happy to both stock Freedom and let the newspaper publicly advertise the fact.

In 1901, Joseph C. Kearney (14) was living at home with his widow mother Lilly Kearney (38) nee Walsh and two younger brothers Thomas (11) and Alfred (10). Lily was a tobacconist and employed an assistant, Mary Callaghan (19) from Cork, in the shop downstairs. Obviously reasonably financially well off, the family also enjoyed the services of a servant Ellen Byrne (16) from Carlow.

On the first anniversary of her death, a notice was put into The Freeman’s Journal (4 December 1891) in memory of a Mrs Anne Walsh of 59 Upper Stephen Street . I suspect this was Lilly’s mother.

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The Kearney family put an advertisement in the Freeman’s Journal (8 March 1902) looking for a “respectable, strong, young country girl” to work as a general servant. They inserted similar notices in 1904 and 1911. The family were decidedly middle-class.

By 1911, Lily (50) had re-married a Royal Dublin Fusiliers Army Pensioner by the name of Vincent Walter (60). Her three sons Joseph (24), Thomas (22) and Alfred (20) all still lived at home with her and listed their profession as “News agent shop men”. Lily’s brother Alfred Walsh (52), an “Engine Fitter”, and a cousin Louie Wilson (16), a “Drapers Shop Assistant” from Liverpool also lived in the house at that time.

In August 1918, Joseph C. Kearney was fined after his wife Louisa Kearney illegally sold matches to a customer. It was the first prosecution, according to the Irish Examiner (28 August 1918), under a new act which “provided that matches must be sold in boxes and not in bundles under any circumstances”.

On 23 February 1922, a notice was put into the Irish Independent by Lily Kearney-Walter who then living in California, San Francisco to mark the 5th anniversary of the death of her brother Alfred. Lily obviously moved back home as she died in Harold’s Cross Hospice on 6 June 1924. The notice in the Irish Independent (9 June 1924) mentioned her late husband V.B. Walter was late of the SMRASC which I think stood for Service Member (?) Royal Army Service Corps.

Kearney had another brush with the law but this time for more interesting reasons than selling matches. In April 1928, Joseph C. Kearney was found guilty and fined a total of £60 for selling two “obscene” publications entitled “Family Limitation” and “The Married Women’s Guide”. It could be concluded from this that Kearney was still politically inclined.

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In court, the state prosecutor Carrigan was quoted in the Irish Times (20 April 1928) as saying:

“The theories contained in the publications might find support in England or in large communities, but in a comparatively small community, like that in Ireland, he did not think that they would find favour, not that the Irish were superior people, but they, happily, were more old-fashioned than were people elsewhere. The public good in Ireland would not be served by the circulation of these books.”

Joseph C. Kearney tragically lost his wife and two children in the 1920s and 1930s.

His wife Louisa Kearney died on 8th October 1923. Emily Lousia, his second daughter, passed away on 10 March 1939 aged 22 and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery. His youngest son Vincent Joseph Kearney died on 24th February 1936 aged 15 after a short illness.

Joseph C Kearney himself died on 29 January 1946 and was buried in Glasnevin with his family.

After his death, the newsagent at 59 Upper Stephen Street was taken over  by a P. Smyth. This house and that whole row at the corner of Upper Stephen Street and South Great George’s Street was demolished and replaced by a modern office block (Dunnes Stores head office) in 2007.

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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.

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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 https://irishrepublicanmarxisthistoryproject.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/alan-macsimoin-a-long-time-anarchist-activist-part-two/

Outta Control – Belfast – January 1983

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Outta Control 35 pngClick here to download

The cover story tells of how the British Army were able to veto the building of new houses on Belfast’s Crumlin Road, despite the Housing Executive, the Planning Office, and the local community association all being in favour of the development. It goes on to report that Housing Executive managers were holding regular meetings with the Army, and that Belfast Development Officer John Steel had been photographed in military uniform during a visit by the Queen to Hillsborough Castle.

Their Dublin correspondent details the fatal shooting – in the back of the neck and while unarmed – of Eamon Byrne. Byrne was a known robber whose life had previously been threatened by Gardai.

Other stories look at Northern Ireland Electricity’s heartless treatment of families in debt; plastic bullets; the Shoot-To-Kill policy of the RUC and British Army which saw seven unarmed men killed in an eight week period; and how the punk band Crass and 50 friends occupied a disused music venue in London, repelled the police and gave a free concert to 1,500 fans.

Workers Solidarity no.29 (Autumn 1988)

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ws29 coverClick here to download

Among the articles are

Kevin Doyle‘s A Fight for Useful Work, which looks at the response of Lucas Aerospace shop stewards in Britain to threatened job losses.  Their proposal was to stop producing for the military and for people’s needs to be put before the owners’ profits.  After assessing the skills and machinery in the firm’s plants, they came up with an alternative plan for socially useful production.  Among their findings were that they could manufacture artificial limb control systems, a ‘hobcart’ to give mobility to children with Spina Bifida, heat pumps to save waste heat, solar energy cells, wind turbines, a combined petrol/battery car which could cut fuel requirements by up to half, and much more. “…it showed what enormous potential a society based on socialism could have”.

– An obituary for Daniel Guerin; a veteran of the French resistance, anti-imperialist, gay rights campaigner and anarchist.  Accompanying it is his article For a Libertarian Communism.

– The story of the 1913 Dublin Lockout, retold by Alan MacSimóin, for its 75th anniversary.

– A review of Cliff Harper’s Anarchy – a graphic guide.

– The second ‘Thinking about Anarchism’ column, which ran for twenty years, was from Myles Kennedy.  This one looks at ‘freedom’, and concludes that new and democratic forms of organisation are necessary because oppressive structures, like the State, “can only be used to impose the will of a minority on the majority”.

– Ryanair’s anti-union behaviour (some things haven’t changed)

– The leader of the Italian Communist Party sending a message of condolence upon the death of Giorgio Almirante, the leader of the fascist MSI party.  This was the man who, 1944, ordered all Italians to rally to Mussolini’s Salo Republic within 24 hours and decreed that “those who do not present themselves will be considered outlaws and executed by shooting in the back”.  Almirante died an unrepentant fascist.

– How a union won Ireland’s first workplace agreement prohibiting discrimination against workers with HIV or AIDS, and did this at a time when there was irrational hysteria about this condition.

– The privatisation of the Harland & Wolfe shipyard and Shorts aircraft factory, or how those mainly loyalist workforces got a slap in the face inreturn for their loyalty.

– The arrival of ‘two-tier’ wages in the Bank of Ireland.

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