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.

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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The Gurriers (1969)

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Gurriers* was produced in 1969 and handed out at University College, Dublin and also at the anti-apartheid demonstration against the Springbok Rugby tour that year.  It was produced by Phil Meyler and was heavily influenced by Raoul Vaneigen’s situationist pamphlet, The Revolution of Everyday Life.  Phil was invited to visit the University President, and his mother had a visit from the Special Branch who wanted to question him.  Phil declined both invitations.

In the Ireland of 1969 you could not publish writings like “The various images of Jesus, from the little underpants on the cross to the unbelievable Sacred Heart, all the martyrs, etc….what pickings for the sadists.  For masochist; the suffering of hellfire, threats, and the whip actually permitted.  For scapular fetishists, relics, Rosary beads, Mary’s garters, Saint Patrick’s shamrocks. Every perversion that one would ever desire..” without expecting a rather fevered response!

Gurriers cover

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Situationism is a minor variant of libertarian Marxism, originally developed by ‘avant grade’ artists.  Whilst not anarchist, neither is it hostile to anarchism.  Perhaps the high point of its influence was among students during the 1968 revolt in France.

Phil Meyler (aka Phil Mailer) was born in Dublin in 1946 and has been a teacher in Portugal, the US and Ireland for many years.  After living in London, where he was on the fringes of the ‘King Mob’ situationist group in the late 1960s, he went to Portugal in 1973 to teach English. There, he participated in the events following the Revolution of April 1974, become an editor of the newspaper Combate and managed a radical bookshop in Lisbon with other Portuguese revolutionaries.

He has been a long-time translator from Portuguese and has translated the song-lyrics and poems of José Afonso (whose song Grandola was a signal for the 1974 revolution).  He is the editor of Livewire Publications, which has published Misfit, the autobiography of Captain Jack White.  White was a founder of the Irish Citizen Army during the 1913 lockout, and one of the Irish who went to fight fascism in Spain in 1936, where he became a supporter of the anarchists.

Phil Meyler

Phil Meyler

Meyler is probably best known as the author of Portugal: The Impossible Revolution?  After the military coup on April 25th, 1974, which saw the overthrow of almost fifty years of fascist rule and an end to three colonial wars, there followed eighteen months of struggle and change, which challenged every aspect of Portuguese society.  That book is the story of what happened in those months after April 1974, as seen and felt by a deeply committed participant.

“Mailer portrays history with the enthusiasm of a cheerleader, the ‘home team’ in this case being libertarian communism. Official documents, position papers and the pronouncements of the protagonists of this drama are mostly relegated to the appendices. The text itself recounts the activities of a host of worker, tenant, soldier and student committees as well as the author’s personal experiences.” —Ian Wallace, Library Journal

 

*Gurrier: Irish synonym for hooligan or corner boy, usually applied to teenagers and younger children.

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/

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.

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”.

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