Monthly Archives: December 2011

Baron Bew of the Stickies: academic ‘Marxist’ bags peerage

When I first read this piece on the Socialist Democracy site in 2007, it made me laugh out loud.  I thought that if I was ever involved in a blog on Ireland, it would be a must piece.  So, finally, here it is (although the original said Lord Bew):

by Andrew Johnson

16 March 2007

Recently, Queens University politics professor Paul Bew was appointed to the House of Lords by Tony Blair. Bew’s elevation to the peerage was presumably in recognition of his service as an informal advisor to another Queens academic, former Unionist leader Lord Trimble. But this latest turn in Bew’s career is interesting in that, prior to becoming a Trimble advisor, he had been Ireland’s foremost academic Marxist, being one of a layer of “Red Professors” closely associated with the Workers Party. Even before that, he had claimed to be an early member of Peoples Democracy, although that claim of youthful radicalism soon left him.

It first needs to be said that, as a Marxist, Bew was always a partisan ideologue. His political shift to the right, which came after the 1992 split in the Workers Party, can be compared with that of another WP ideologue, Eoghan Harris, who within months of leaving the WP was acting as an unofficial advisor to Fine Gael. But to leave it at that would simply be to comment on the cynicism bred by the Official Republicans’ rotten political culture. Bew repays examination because, unlike Harris, who was and is essentially a pundit, Bew had a worked-out and quite sophisticated ideology, which lent him a lot of intellectual credibility, and has allowed him to move from Stalinism to Ulster Unionism without skipping a beat.

The thrust of Bew’s analysis, expressed most clearly in The State in Northern Ireland, was firstly to efface the role of imperialism in shaping Irish politics, and alongside that to deny Read the rest of this entry

Discussion/analysis of November 30 public sector strike and rally in the six counties

The material below is taken from the Socialist Democracy site:

Report on Belfast rally

by J.M. Thorn

A rally was held in Belfast city centre on Wed (30 Nov) as part of the one-day strike by public sector workers against proposed pension “reforms”.   Around seven thousand people gathered outside Belfast City Hall where they were addressed by a number of speakers. 

First up was Michael Dornan, a bus driver and member of UNITE.  He said that transport workers were standing together to protect their pensions, accusing the British government of attempting   the rob them.  Condemning the media smears against trade unions in the run up to the strike Michael asserted that it was not a crime for workers to stand up for their rights.  He claimed that the government was trying to divide workers between public and private, but for him this was a false division as trade unions had members in all sectors of the economy and were supporting all workers.  He also made the point that public sector pension funds were major investors in private companies.  Michael finished by accusing the British Government of robbing pensions and urged people to stand together to oppose the cuts.

The next speaker was Mary Cahalan, a teacher and member of INTO.  She said that teachers and principals don’t just go on strike, as they were aware of the value of their jobs and of children.  Mary claimed that they wanted negotiation but had been forced onto the picket line by the threat to make them work longer for less.  She accused the education minister John O’Dowd of “cynical kite flying” around the issue of education cuts and said that the message to the whole executive was to go back to the British Government and say that Read the rest of this entry

Demystifying exploitation

There is widespread confusion, even on the left, about the term ‘exploitation’.  In the past few decades it has been dumbed down to refer to only extreme cases of workers being ground down by especially low pay and repressive working conditions.  Such an explanation of the term, however, has the effect of normalising the fact that all capitalist profit stems from paying workers less than the value that their labour-power creates.  According to the bosses, for instance, profits and wages are “fair shares” of the wealth produced as a result of workers and employers combining to produce goods and services.  Exploitation, we are told, does not exist, or is extremely rare, in this happy arrangement which is the norm in countries like Ireland.  This view also gives rise to calls for “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” and that everyone should pay their “fair share” of tax,

A brief glance at the distribution of wealth in Ireland and globally, however, undermines this claim.

In the twenty-six county state, just one percent of the population have Read the rest of this entry

Remembering Vol Eddie Grant

On Christmas Eve, éirígí in Newry held a solemn commemorative event in the Derrybeg estate to remember local IRA volunteer Eddie Grant.

While many families are preparing for the festive season local éirígí activists came together, with the family of Eddie Grant, to remember and pay tribute to the supreme sacrifice he made in the fight for liberation.

A wreath was laid on the Derrybeg monument by Eddie’s niece Jacqueline in memory of her uncle.

Wreath is laid

éirígí Newry area spokesperson Stephen Murney spoke and paid tribute to Eddie.

Stephen said, “Today we remember IRA volunteer Eddie Grant who was killed in action on Christmas Eve 1973 along with his comrade Brendan Quinn from Cloughreagh.

“We are deeply honoured to Read the rest of this entry

Free Marian Price Now!

The following article by Eamonn McCann first appeared in the December 14  Derry Journal.  It also appears on Redline blog:

The continuing imprisonment of Marian Price in Maghaberry is a scandal and would be seen more widely in this light were it not for her politics.

Ms Price is in jail on the order of Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, who signed a document last May ordering the police to put her behind bars.

She had been arrested on May 11th and charged with encouraging support for an illegal organisation. This arose from an action at the 32 Country Sovereignty Movement’s Easter commemoration in Derry city cemetery: on a blustery day, she reached up to hold the script from which a masked representative of the Real IRA was reading the ‘Easter Message’.

Two days later Ms. Price appeared at Bishop Street, where she applied for and was granted bail. She was rearrested when she came out onto the steps of the courthouse.

Mr Patterson had signed a document the previous night purporting to revoke the licence on which she had been released almost 30 years earlier from a life sentence for the 1973 Provisional IRA bombing of Read the rest of this entry

Remembering Peter Graham, 1945-1971

by Mick Healy


Peter Graham, 1945-1971

October saw the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Peter Graham, shot dead in a flat in the Stephen’s Green area of Dublin on 25 October 1971 at the age of twenty-six. There is little doubt that if he had lived he would have been a major force in left-wing politics.

He came from the Liberties of Dublin, working as an electrician in CIE, and was a trade union activist. He joined the Connolly Youth Movement, where he gained his Marxist grounding, but later joined the Young Socialists before becoming active in Saor Eire, which was carrying out spectacular bank robberies, with many of its members, such as Frank Keane and Joe Dillon, being imprisoned.

Peter Graham funeral. Centre-front, behind the flag-bearer, is Tariq Ali

He left for London, where he helped in building the International Marxist Group and the Fourth International. Along with Tariq Ali, Bob Purdie and Liam Dalton he helped in publishing an underground newspaper, Red Mole. Also while in London he wrote and published the Saor Eire manifesto in May 1971.

On his return to Dublin after about a year he was reintroduced to the state harassment Read the rest of this entry

Spectacle of Defiance and Hope, Dublin, Dec 3

The week following a “subdued protest” (Irish Times) by several thousand Dublin trade unionists and leftists against the Fine Gael-Labour coalition’s austerity measures, members of community organisations held a protest called the Spectacle of Defiance and Hope on December 3.  The Spectacle assembled by City Hall before very slowly moving up Dame Street, College Green, Westmoreland St and up O’Connell Street to the GPO for a rally.  Although smaller than the November 26 march, with maybe 1000-1500 participants, it seemed to me much more noisy, colourful and militant.

I’d normally be put off by just a title like “Spectacle of Defiance and Hope” and the idea of dress-up, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have been because this was no middle class spectacle but  reflective of the poorer end of the working class in Dublin.  These were people for whom belt-tightening Read the rest of this entry

What’s new

I’ve added to the blog the speech given by the IRSP’s Chris Donnelly to the November 24 Republican Congress meeting at Queen’s University.  It appears along with Stephen Murney’s speech at:

Somewhere between Dublin, the Glen of Imaal, Belfast, London, Brighton and New Zealand four pages of notes on the mid-1930s socialist-republican newspaper Republican Congress have disappeared.  They were with my notes on Aine Ceannt’s BMH testimony which I still have, so their disappearance is very odd.  One to the gremlins, I guess.  Unfortunately, I can’t just dash down and spend another four hours retaking them at the National Library and I’m not planning on being back in Ireland until 2013, so my promised article on the first issue of Republican Congress isn’t going to happen.

However, other promised material should appear in the next few days.  Namely:

* A short report on the Spectacle of Hope and Defiance

* A look at the role that VAT plays in the relationship between workers and capitalists and why indirect taxation is a particular tool for governments managing capitalism, especially during economic downturns when the cry is usually for (income) tax cuts

* A look at why cuts in the public sector are crucial for capital in periods of economic downturn and crisis

Commemorating Vols Patricia Black and Frank Ryan

Organised by the Black/Ryan Memorial Flute Band.  A nice ‘Foggy Dew’ at the start and an excellent speech from Louise Minihan which starts about 4:40 into the video.  Good to see her mention the Marian Price case, too.

A view of the éirígí ard fheis

I attended the afternoon session of the éirígí ard fheis in Dublin on Saturday, November 26.  The morning had been an internal-only session and discussed organisational reports and the issue of what position the organisation should take on abortion, along with motions from party ciorcail (circles, as local branches are known).  The motions are available on the éirígí site.

In the afternoon, John McCusker gave a short presentation about the launching of a fund drive for the purchase of a national headquarters in Dublin.  Given that the organisation is very new and started with basically half a dozen people, it’s very impressive that it has reached the stage of needing a national headquarters.

The first of three external speakers was Aodh O Corcain from the Belfast workers’ co-op Na Croisbhealaí.  Aodh spoke about the uses of Read the rest of this entry