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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Irish Anarchist Review (2015)

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The final issue of the Workers Solidarity Movement’s Irish Anarchist Review appeared in 2015, and was replaced the following year by Common Threads.

iar 11

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Articles include Tom Murray on the conflict over control of water in Bolivia; Andrew Flood on the ‘Rojava Revolution’, Eoin O’Ceallaigh on left wing football culture; Sinead Redmond on maternity care and bodily autonomy; Ferdia O’Brien on the (ultimately successful) fight against domestic water charges; Cormac Caulfield and Ferdia O’Brien on why anarchists oppose the state; Eoin O’Connor on Murray Bookchin; and Mark Hoskins on the ever widening definition of ‘terrorism’ by European governments.

Former WSM member and prominant teachers’ union activist Gregor Kerr expected to “see the battle for the soul of the trade union movement intensify.  We will be faced with a stark choice – are we going to continue to build the ‘organiser’ model of trade unionism which has been so successful in recent years?  And in order to do so, are we going to rid ourselves of the stultifying bureaucracy that is preventing this move from organising to fighting?  Or are we going to allow ourselves to be brought back into a new round of ‘social partnership’?  If we allow the latter to happen, it is likely to sign the death knell of the movement that has been so painstakingly built over the past 100 years.”

Irish Anarchist Review (2010)

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In 2010 the Workers Solidarity Movement closed down its Red & Black Revolution magazine and replaced it with the twice yearly Irish Anarchist Review. Eleven issues of this free paper were published, with the final one in 2015. The print run was 3,000 and distribution was mostly at events like the Dublin and London anarchist book fairs.

iar 1

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The editorial in number 1 set out its goal and listed the articles:

“Welcome to the first issue of The Irish Anarchist Review, the new political magazine from the Workers Solidarity Movement. This magazine will explore ideas and practical struggles that can teach us about building a revolutionary movement today. We decided to cease printing Red & Black Revolution, and start this project, aimed at provoking debate and discussion among anarchists and the left. For this purpose, we will be pursuing a non-sectarian approach, taking ideas from various left currents, mainstream discourse, and reflections on experiences of life and struggle. We will take, print, and discuss, anything that we find useful for our needs. We hope that readers will have a similar attitude, and will use the magazine to discuss, debate and develop ideas. We will also welcome submissions and responses to articles.

“This issue is shaped by the current financial crisis, and more particularly, by the reactions of the Irish political and capitalist classes, as they pursue an aggressive strategy of cutbacks. We have seen the implosion of the building sector, the foundering of the banks upon corruption and incompetence and the failure of our foreign investment based economic model. Moreover, we have seen that the government response has been to protect the banks and builders by transferring wealth from social services, public pay and increased taxation straight into bank bailouts and NAMAland. This needs to be identified for what it is: an act of outright class warfare.

“We are faced with a situation where a strong and organised response to government attacks is absolutely necessary, but is constrained by the prevailing ideology and practice of partnership. The most pressing concern for Irish radicals today is to build a labour movement that rejects the corporatist mentality and service-delivery model of ICTU and poses instead workers self-organisation as the basis for struggle. With this in mind, this and future issues will look for inspiration in revitalising class-based politics.

“The weakening of Irish organised labour through the ‘Celtic Tiger’ period is examined by James R’s article, and he poses some requirements for the emergence of a class movement that can deal with the threats of the present while bearing a vision of a better future. Andrew Flood looks at some of the positive elements of recent struggles, emphasising the possibilities for self-organisation and direct action made visible in the recent struggles.

“We feature two articles that try to learn from the experiences of radicals internationally. Ronan McAoidh reviews the work of Swedish group, Kämpa Tillsammans!, which argues that affinity between workers, not just union organisation, is the basis of successful struggles. An interview with Alex Foti explores organising tactics that try to deal with the growing trend of flexible working conditions.

“The reviews also tie into this theme, assessing the development of an American working-class counter-culture and, by looking at workplace blogging, discussing some ways in which this can be done today.

“Overall, this issue attempts to learn from the current weakness of the Irish working class, and explores both the origins of this weakness and some routes towards a combative class movement, capable of disrupting the ruling class offensive on living and working conditions and posing an altogether different vision of society, and, most importantly, a way of getting there.”

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.

Scab newspaper in Dublin condemns Anarchism (1913)

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The ToilerDuring the 1913 Dublin Lockout (when the employers tried to crush militant trade unionism by locking out members of the Irish Transport & General Workers Union) bosses and clergy brought out their own propaganda.

The above cutting is from ‘The Toiler’, an employer backed paper set up to counter the influence of ‘The Irish Worker’. It collapsed after 14 weeks.  There was also ‘The Liberator’ which appeared for a few weeks in August 1913.  Both papers claimed to be for ‘respectable’ and ‘moderate trade unionism’ but their only connection with unions was their support for the yellow unions set up by priests like Fr Patrick Flavin’s ‘Workers Union’ in Dun Laoghaire, and the ‘Independent Labour Union’ set up by another priest to break the agricultural labourers strike in north Dublin.  These ‘unions’ had no real existence and disappeared within weeks.

 

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.

Libertarian Communist (1980)

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Following on from Tony Zebrugg’s piece on British anarchists and Ireland in the 1970s, here is an article about the Irish labour movement and partition from Libertarian Communist (the magazine of the British Libertarian Communist Group) in 1980. As well as a brief history of the Irish working class, it deals with the ICTU’s Better Life For All campaign.

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At the time most of the left in both Ireland and Britain either enthusiastically supported that campaign (e.g. The Workers Party and Militant Tendency) or dismissed it out of hand as ‘pro-imperialist’ (most trotskyist and republican groups). The LCG’s view was that it was well-intentioned but totally impractical because of the large amounts of capital it would require from the British state to address the economic inequalities that underpinned sectarianism. They also pointed out that there was no point in lobbying the unionist ruling class to get rid of sectarianism as they “would thereby lose their source of strength”.

The promised follow-up articles never appeared as the LCG decided to disband and join Big Flame. BF described themselves as “a revolutionary socialist feminist organisation with a working-class orientation”.

The name ‘Big Flame’ came from a 1969 BBC television play, The Big Flame, written by Jim Allen and directed by Ken Loach, about a fictional strike in the Liverpool Docks.

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