Century of Endeavour


(c) assorted publishers
(comments to rjtechne at iol dot ie)

These reviews done 'in virtual mode' on radical political web-sites are also presented in chronological order..

Reviewed in the Blanket web-site by Seaghan O Murchu, 14 December 2006

[See the review in context at http://lark.phoblacht.net/SOM020107.html]

Joe & Roy Johnston:'Water Running Uphill'?

Father & Son, Scholars & Activists, Social Democrats & Marxist Republicans
Century of Endeavour. A Biographical & Autobiographical View of the Twentieth Century in Ireland by Roy H W Johnston. Tyndall Publications, Carlow, in association with The Lilliput Press, Dublin. Rev. ed. 2006. €40.00. ISBN 1-8-4351-080-4.

When my wife looked over at what, for many hours, I'd been reading and then annotating, she marvelled: 'That's the smallest type I've ever seen!' In the 576 densely printed pages of the joint biography of his father, Joe, and himself, Dr Roy Johnston compresses an enormous amount of what he acknowledges will be more source material for historians than a polished narrative. Belying the succinct review of an earlier near namesake, Dr (Sam) Johnson, unlike Paradise Lost, I did wish this tome to be longer.

Readers of The Blanket have likely more than a few studies of the Provos on their shelves. But what became after the 1969-70 split the Official IRA and SF has never received in-depth treatment for its own sake, through primary sources that document the Republican Movement's politicisation that began around 1960 and that continued long after Roy J. left the increasingly brutalised, compromised, and militarised factions competing for control of the Officials in the early 70s. The period bookended by the defeat of Sean Cronin's Operation Harvest and the Seamus Costello-INLA fracture with the Officials aroused my initial interest. Yet, Johnston warns that this tumultuous span is merely one among many. As a physicist, consultant on the international development of science, and as a Quaker and Green activist, his career far pre- and long postdates his tenure as a leader of what became the Officials. He, like his father, accomplished much political work amidst their own academic, family, and professional commitments. Reading this auto/biography, both father and son demonstrate their idealism, their pragmatism, and the wisdom, rare in activists, to balance these two characteristics.

The first URL given above provides Roy's overview of the table of contents. Johnston ambitiously has underlined links in his book that refer to his own on-line archives. Readers can e-mail him at the address provided in the introduction to request hyperlink access. The creative potential of a book that never ends, that draws the permanence of print into the transience of the screen, matches the restless curiousity and fresh thinking that he and his father both brought to many vexed issues, often Irish, some scholarly, many political, often national, and then for Roy republican, Marxist, and democratic socialist, that have challenged these two Johnstons for the whole past century. This may be the one of the first academic works, at least for the Irish context (I presume that scientists already have pioneered such hybrid publications), that combines two media and expands the potential of the book to remain relevant in our cyber-creative realm.

Given the format, and the TOC link provided, I will summarise portions and analyze excerpts at an uneven pace. While most of my comments convey for The Blanket's audience the gist of the Republican-nationalist content, I remind you that this is but part of Roy's meticulous discourse. He begins the book, and also each chapter, with a precis. A sample of this from the start of the book can be seen at: http://www.iol.ie/~rjtechne/xverview.htm.

Joe Johnston (1890-1972) of Tyrone smallholder Presbyterian stock, had three brothers in the Indian Civil Service. His family supported Home Rule within a democratic Britain. His 1913 study, Civil War in Ulster (republished in 1999; edited by Roy for UCD Press), provides a 'current affairs' treatment of the Larne gunrunning and its aftermath. Joe sensibly addressed his fellow Protestants, advocating law rather than rebellion, urging that Home Rule should be preferred to Tory manipulation of Unionists against the Liberals. Joe, a TCD classics fellow turned economist, inspired by Horace Plunkett, ran the Dublin University's Co-Op. Post-Rising, he astutely observed emerging Sinn Fein leaders who were 'well-read, well-travelled and earnest' (30) They roused the poor with idealistic political rhetoric. But, after rallying the 'labouring classes', SF 'then devoted itself to an object which could avail them nothing. That was probably a condition of its receipt of certain funds.' Joe, who favoured an all-Ireland Home Rule, apparently suspected already that SF carried within its ranks two fatal flaws: zealotry and chicanery. The father's judgment of SF would be repeated by the son over fifty years later.

Disagreeing with Partition, warning against premature referenda, Joe early saw that his wishes to better Irish society could fulfill themselves better in financially-focused efforts. While he served in the Seanad 1939-54, he devoted most of his career to economic history, lecturing, writing, and especially to co-operative programs. The land reforms attempted by the new regime post-1922, he reasoned, would not succeed. Better to place ten farmers on 300 acres where, in co-operative organisation, they could benefit from each other's expertise. Instead, the 30 acres per smallholder redistribution, Joe opined, enticed the greed of Fianna Fail's gombeen men. Families unable to farm their land sold low to crafty neighbours. Accumulation of wealth back into the hands of a few resumed. Seeking to escape this bourgeoisie trap, Joe developed an 'obsession' that his son shared: they hated 'the negative effects of Partition, which had produced the Catholic-hegemonist environment in the "republic" within which critical thought was decidedly unwelcome, and the obverse Protestant-hegemonist northern scene.' (157-8) By 1960, Joe had to emigrate to London to support himself and his family.

By then, his son would accompany him. Roy, born 1929, early in the Promethean student group at St Columba's College in suburban Dublin continued his father's drive to better himself and others through democratically leftist, people-oriented, anti-statist strategies, But, Roy began early also to lean towards European Marxism. Father and son may have long differed on the economic methods employed, but both sought to transform post-colonial malaise into innovative energy. Fighting partition, sectarianism, and parochialism would impel activist Roy to change his nation no less than did the careful labours of his father, a scholar who longed for the farm.

Roy in the late 1940s, furthering Promethean plans, entered TCD. Fellow Marxists, he found there, too readily gripped what he calls 'the dead hand of Stalinism'. The student left at university fell into a gap between their Marxist vision and 'the intellectual requirements of Irish radical political practice as it then was. Into this vacuum flowed the resurgent IRA of the subsequent decade.' (97) Working from the mid-1950s with particle physics on the Continent, Roy began to communicate with scientists through international conferences and networks. Why, he mused, could not a similar support system strengthen the beleaguered Irish radical left?

Roy quotes Greaves' 1956 diary with its demonstrative anecdote. 'When some Party activist held an open air meeting Falls Road and Shankill Road hooligans combined to attack him. "Working class unity at last" says Roy....' (153) The dogmatic Marxism then on offer for earnest Irish radicals, unfortunately, complicated arrangements across the Iron Curtain. The party line led to the Kremlin. At TCD, Roy had gravitated towards the considerable pull exerted by C. Desmond Greaves. British Communists, logical allies of the tiny Irish far-left, sought a common front with which to tackle the 'national question'. The Connolly Association represented the progressive interests of the Irish in Britain, but their Irish counterparts lacked CA's experience. Their Dublin organisation, the Irish Workers' League...

[Comment by RJ 24/10/07: The IWL had emerged independently in 1948, from an consortium of pre-war CPI people, the 'Connolly Group' of ex-IRA internees, and the student left in TCD. In no way was it 'their', implying the property of the CA, or indeed the CPGB, though Greaves at the time was supportive as best he could.]

...predictably became in the 50s still more mired in its internal Cold War contradictions. Unable to turn away from the Man of Steel, Irish leftists unblinkingly entered into the hypnotic spell exerted by the Comintern upon their British and European comrades. 'There was, however, nowhere else for the aspirant radical critical intellectual to go. The present writer stuck with in, and fought for a genuine critical view where and when he could.' (118)

Greaves continued to influence Roy, who combined his scientific experimentation with high-energy particle physics first in France and then at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies. Post-Hungary 1956, the Stalin monolith began to crack, and at least in theory a 'broad Left' Irish alliance was mooted. The CPGB and the CA bickered, Roy continued to shuttle back and forth - at one point working in reservations systems design for Aer Lingus - like so many of his peers between Dublin and London. There, Roy managed to mingle socially with both the Labour trade activists with whom he organised and the Communists who, of course, despised their liberal neighbours and so drank at another pub. This diplomatic skill would be honed in the 60s and 70s, and severely tested as the splits widened.

Meanwhile, Roy had initiated correspondence with the IRA chief-of-staff Sean Cronin. The Northern campaign of the late 1950s having failed by 1962, Greaves that November emerged with - Roy credits him as the 'prime mover' - the "'Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland" concept'. (168) By summer 1963, the CA's Anthony Coughlan (who receives extensive acknowledgment throughout for his own archival and critical contributions to Roy's study) and Roy joined others first gathered around QUB and then TCD who had convened the think-tank/ ginger-group The Wolfe Tone Society. Johnston notes that Cathal Goulding did not seek to ally this "Directory' with the then-'vestigial' IRA. SF minutes 'show only "fuzzy" knowledge" of WTS. (174) Still, even then, harbingers of RM internal struggle lurk. Sean MacStiofain's 1975 memoirs red-bait Roy. He and Coughlan have often since been suspected of being suspiciously London-based, if purportedly Irish, agents (or higher ranks) of the Kremlin's puppets, of the British Communists as mastered under Moscow-loyal Greaves. Such allegations against Roy and Anthony, since MacStiofain's 70s memoir, have haunted many histories of the IRA.

Taking pains to explain, Roy's book - for the first time in print that I am aware - realigns the plot. Cathal Goulding and Seamus Costello, among others, had prior to Roy's 'time of active association with the movement' sought to pull republican activists towards the left, if for the physical-force traditionalist MacStiofain too far towards the East. Roy does not blame MacStiofain (who lord knows incurred plenty of blame by the 1970s) himself. He surmises that the future Provo had been misled regarding Roy and Anthony by Goulding's own tentative inquiries towards Moscow when Sean and Cathal were in jail in 1953 and then when Goulding as Chief-of-Staff contacted the Soviet Embassy in 1963 regarding support. (Cathal was told that Moscow backed only governments, not 'revolutionary movements'!) (171)

Allying with the radical left complicated the loyalties within this embryonic RM. Roy resisted a 'simplistic, two-class model of traditional Marxism'. George Russell, Plunkett, and father Joe J - perhaps subconsciously at the time for Roy - wished to involve 'worker-managers and self-employed' along with the usual ranks of 'workers'. (178) Co-ops encouraged, and represented, democracy at social, industrial, and commercial levels. The State did not have to loom so large.

This attraction, by mid-1964, moved Roy away from the IWL into taking a leading role in the WTS. Goulding 'wanted help in converting the IRA from an illegal army into a democratically disciplined political movement reflecting the interests of the working people as a whole, broadly based on the socialist ideas of Marx, as adapted by Connolly to the Irish situation.' (179) The 'politicising republicans' in Roy's vision could ally with trade unions, rural co-ops, smallholding farmers, Gaeltacht initiatives, and local 'Civil Liberties' advocates. Unfortunately in this reviewer's opinion, the 1964 SF Ard Fheis proposal for 'a national scheme of resistance to foreign takeover of land and industry' remained rhetoric. Ambitious plans, few to carry them out.

The 'overlay of militarist irrendentism' that marred the IRA, Johnston emphasises, weakened the 'activist visionaries' among these progressive republicans. Fenian-IRB veneration could press as dead a hand upon the RM as that of an embalmed Lenin. A couple hundred volunteers were canvassed. Whether they all accepted the leftist shift, or whether 'sea-green incorruptibles' were instructed to support it, appears uncertain. (188) The Army Council, under the presumed sway of Goulding and Costello, Roy estimates, tried to 'impose' its '"advanced thinking'". (188) Many who joined the Dublin unit, Johnston avers, sought 'romantic militarism', or a sense of adventure' (185) Roy starting in March 1965 serves 'on behalf of [Goulding's] HQ staff' as the IRA's 'political education officer'. This same spring, the organising and ideological roots of what a year later would blossom as NICRA began by WTS and trade unions to be planted.

The seeds of conflict within the RM would also soon sprout. The June 1965 Special Ard Fheis under its 'civil society enabling proposals' had considered that 'the essential work of the republican movement at present is the development of political and agitational activities and the infiltration and direction of other organisations' (188) Although this was amended to 'the giving of leadership, internally and externally', the implication remains. Added to this directive was 'the involvement of other organisations in struggles for limited objectives as a preparation for an ultimate confrontation with the British Government on the national issue.' (189)

Johnston insists that encouragement, indirect or direct, for 'traditional elitist "army" thinking' should never exist alongside 'non-violent initiatives such as the NICRA, by those who were at this time promoting the politicisation process.' (188-189) He concludes that the [Neil]'Blaneyite approach' of physical-force violence to fight violence only pushed the RM into sectarian defense of the 'Catholic ghettoes' and doomed the efforts of NICRA. These activists, in his family's tradition, sought inclusive participation. They barred none on the dubious basis of a suspect class, origin, creed, or occupation that had on both the republican and loyalist sides denigrated fellow Irish citizens. Johnston supported broader fronts of unions, co-ops, progressives, workers in an all-Ireland campaign for civil change. He rejected doomed guerrilla and paramilitary warfare within or against Britain. With Connolly's 'Ralahine chapter in Labour in Irish History as a model', Johnston argues, the solution proves an 'economic democracy' by 'non-violent' methods. (190)

Such a principled stance allowed Johnston, as the Troubles began to stir, to remain a RM leader.

These secular verities also clashed with sectarian militias and tribal allegiances, with the Crown and Orangemen, with Stalinist dogma, and with those within SF and the IRA who ultimately chanted a rote sum - even if they never admitted it within earshot - republican + Catholic = RM.

Surprisingly, Peadar O'Donnell resented the younger republicans; he suspected their motives. Michael O'Riordain and Jim Prendergast's miniscule CPI...

[Comment by RJ 24/01/07: Jim Prendergast, as far as I know, had no role in the IWL or the CPI into which it evolved; he was active in the CPGB, in a left-sectarian mode from which Greaves and the Connolly Association distanced themselves. It is probably true that O'Riordan would have seen him as his London contact-point, and this was a bone of contention with Greaves.]

....endured, on the deference granted by the International Brigades' credentials of these two veterans. In Belfast, Betty Sinclair doggedly managed to lobby for CR along with Communism. However, the lapse into sectarianism soon severed CP & IWP ties with working-class Belfast Protestants. Roy's hopes for a non-sectarian NLF that defied Partition faded. CR, in his judgement, mutated into a 'crypto-nationalist' issue. (242)

Protestant trade unions found their idealistic calls for 'one man, one vote' and fairness in local government elections ignored. Polarisation returned. CA & IWP pondered alliances with organised labour and NICRA, but again the disorganisation, ideological fluctuations, and comparatively small amounts of reliable activists discouraged the evolution of the RM 'into an all-Ireland democratic Marxist party having broad-based support from workers, working management, working owner-managers and self-employed.' (228) The end of the Prague Spring hastened the irrelevance of the CPNI and IWP. Greaves' own loyalty to Moscow, even after the tanks crushed the Czech protestors, accelerated Johnston's direction towards other mentors.

A National Liberation Front appealed, but by now it was too little, too late. In hindsight, Roy notes that if the split had happened earlier between Costello's eager militarists and Goulding's radical progressives, the IRA and SF would have emerged more forcefully to represent socialist republicanism as the movement's ideological foundation and practical application. The momentum that goaded marchers from Belfast to Derry and knowingly provoked the attackers at Burntollet , in Johnston's opinion, would have been halted. The slippery slope into shooting could have been prevented. Costello seems to have played his cards close to his vest, and Johnston appears to have believed in the later 1960s that Costello was among the politicising republicans more than those who favoured a return to the armed campaign. He is the impetus, so it seems, for the continuation of the Officials with physical force despite the split. Johnston also proposes that the Provos, if the reactionaries had been outflanked and cast out before 1969, would not have been able to capitalise on the perceived impotence of Goulding's politicised IRA.

Perhaps there is a contradiction, for Johnston assumes that the political campaign would have united communities and overcome divisions. His expectation of a dream that could have been fulfilled makes his memoir poignant. Despite his even-handed, determinedly detached point-of-view his regret lingers. One wonders if three thousand lives could have flourished, if countless more Irish and British men and women could have been spared pain. The collapse of the political resolution to the 'national question' cripples us still. He admits that NICRA, WTS and ICCL all acted individually more than collectively. When political progress began in the North, no peaceful, democratic, all-Ireland coalition had developed to take advantage of this opportunity. 'Fianna Fail irredentism took over, with a strong Catholic-nationalist flavour'. (232) Whether this regression to armed conflict could have been thwarted by a broad-front, in my reading of Johnston's narrative, remains a conundrum. Republicans and nationalists could not control the opposition who itched to jump into battle, Among the RM ranks as well as across the barricades, the border, and the Irish Sea many paced and drilled with no patience for Kumbaya and sit-ins.

Later in the book, Johnston also acknowledges dirty tricks. The role of the British intelligence operatives here to discredit the soon-to-be 'official' IRA cannot be denied, and unimpeachable evidence during this period of cause and effect can elude not only present historians and recollecting participants. As Johnston analyses the general cause and effect, the 'armed B-Special pogroms of August 1969' incited reaction by hardline militants who lacked political direction, espoused sectarian prejudice, and who regressed into roles that their grandfathers had enacted on the stages of Larne in 1913 and the street theatre of 1920-22 Belfast. (232)

What about the nationalist politicians on both sides of the border? Blaney receives contempt for playing into such guerrilla posturing. Bernadette Devlin, a product of the student anarchist QUB 'ultra-left,' lacked the skills needed to represent the Civil Rights movement. Paris with its youthful Maoist poses inspired Peoples Democracy. NICRA's moderation dimmed its spotlight. Riots, moratoriums, and power demanded by any means necessary trumped marchers patiently lobbying for tenants' rights, community action, and cross-community efforts.

The 1968 Ard Fheis managed to defend the IRA and SF against its own rebels, but next year's split now became inevitable. The 'IRB military conspiratorial tradition' displayed the 'futility of military structures in politics'. (251) Refusal of constitutional options, adulation of abstentionism, and most of all the hobbling fetish of 'the physical force as principle' Fenian culture doomed Coughlan and Johnston's construction of a 'democratic popular culture, based on class alliances and common interests' rather than 'pathology' of a reactionary RM bitterly opposed to its own politicisation. (256)

The 1969 Belfast 'pogrom', Johnston suggests, was initiated by ultra-loyalists within the RUC. He estimates that the plans came from the 'top-down' to aggravate the IRA hardliners. 'To go for the guns was what the enemy wanted'. (262)

He finds in the CR demands published in the United Irishman in September 1969 parallels with the GFA. The Officials defended their political ideals, cross-border vision, and Marxist theory. He offers an intriguing aside. In late 1969 amidst what would result in the Arms Trial, he muses that Fianna Fail feared its exposure as a 'moneyed mafia'. Land deals, such as those Joe had earlier protested in the 1930s and 40s, now favoured urban developers. (As an aside, consider how much Haughey and his cronies incur condemnation for the demolishment of so much of Georgian Dublin. Not to mention later at Wood Quay.) Grassroots politicking systems rotted as the working class remained enthralled by FF. This scenario reminds me of John McGahern's stories. I recall his old IRA veterans who simmer with controlled rage against the 26 Counties, yet were among the first to serve - as did his father in life as well as his fictional doppelganger - in the Garda Siochana. Among such willingly co-opted malcontents, FF remained if only by default or habit in local power. Such a cosy status quo could be toppled by a revived leftist movement that, as it had threatened to do in the 1920s and 1930s, rapped against Leinster House.

Cross-community democracy and the threat of a united left, Roy holds, sparked a vicious reprisal against politicising republicans. Thus, by implication, the token resolutions or clandestine shipments northwards from Leinster House towards the Provo QM's Whether intended as symbolic or not, the association of FF with the republicans, cynically and neatly, bolstered Haughey's long-term success and the claims of his party to republican bona fides. Who suffered? Not only the Catholics in the ethnic cleansing that followed in Belfast, but those who sought to erase such identifications in the name of an inclusive, secularised, and democratically socialist Ireland. I note that neither 'two nations' thesis nor stagist theory- of which comes first, national unification or the proletariat's triumph- enters Johnston's analysis. Although he does cite Brendan Clifford, whose Athol Press has published Marxian studies that can be traced to the same influences within which Johnston and Coughlan worked, Roy avoids rarified aridity.

How should Marxist policy direct militant strategy? The debate deepened rifts within the RM. Johnston determines that by March 1970, Goulding 'wanted Belfast to be undefended, and to use the ensuing situation politically to get the B-Specials disarmed. This however gave the Provisionals the role of "defenders of the people".' (284) The subsequent charge that the 'official IRA' gave away their arms to a 'Free Wales Army' - Johnston guesses this to be another British product of the 'dirty tricks department' - seems to arise from the turmoil of this spring. (286) The fatal attraction between the top-down military structure wished for by the physical-force proponents and the Stalinist CPI doomed the left-republican alliance. Johnston's broad front broke into its components: PD, NICRA, 'orange communists', Provos and Officials. Both what Johnston labels the Stalinist and the Fenian tendencies shared pathological sources in 'party-driven machine-voting in a context where a broad knowledge-based movement was most needed'. (311) CR activists were shunted aside, and the elitist qualities endemic to the traditional IRB-derived republican hauteur of the martyred few who acted on behalf of the workers are, Johnston reminds us, 'the antithesis of that projected for the type of left-wing democratic activist organisation that since 1965 or so we had been trying to build'. (314) He adds: 'This was the beginning of the end or my association with the movement.'

When the actual resignation occurred remains somewhat hazy. Still, after the start of 1972, amidst the Senator Barnhill 'episode' and the Aldershot 'incident', the Officials had played the same hand as their Provo former comrades. The gun had silenced the ideals for which Roy had spent nearly a decade in attempting to move republicans towards a non-sectarian NLF. Costello's admiration for Stalin 'because he used to rob banks for the Bolsheviks' reveals the level to which those who had once claimed to have shared Johnston and Coughlan's principles had regressed. (322) I note as a relevant aside that Johnston here also cites Tomas Mac Giolla who claimed that Tim Pat Coogan and some of his fellow Irish Press journalists were implicated along with Jack Lynch's government in diverting the CR struggle into the Official-Provo splits. (321-322)

Johnston had pulled out, he recalls, in January, yet continued to remain on good terms with his RM colleagues, and assisted their 'internal education programme'; the internment of so many republicans, the 'perceived military objectives', and the fact that so many other republicans were on the run made continued involvement untenable. (322) At this time, he also parted with his early mentor C. Desmond Greaves. Greaves had always rejected Johnston's effort to advance Marxism within republicanism. Greaves opposed also Johnston's wish to expand neo-Marxist tenets to welcome 'direct democratic control over the capital investment process by the people concerned'. (323) Greaves, as with so many orthodox radicals (quite an oxymoron?), could not allow the state to be 'a referee and not a player' in a 'market socialism model'. Johnston, rightly, traces the course of his ideas into the left-green convergence that inspire today's Green Party and, in Johnston's view, a broad-minded and typically inclusive rather than exclusive vision that he advocates as the truest rendition of Connolly's vision for Ireland. Again, the continuity of Joe Johnston's promotion of Connolly's writings in the 1920s to working-class night students in economics at TCD with Roy's own commitment to a socialist coalition that sought not to stoke class war but commercial peace shows that father and son remained faithful to their own visions.

A telling anecdote: Joe to the Irish Times had written in December 1970 that if Nelson's column had not been blown up but replaced ceremoniously with the figure of Wolfe Tone, the significance of this change on Dublin's main street would have been obvious, and would have furthered national unity more than the prank of a few republican rascals under the cover of night.

Later in the 1970s, Roy assisted the CPI with his efforts to integrate technological transfer of information between scientists from across the globe. Greaves, O'Riordain, Eoin O Murchu united to undermine Johnston's project. Joe's Dublin University Co-Op Society, perhaps fittingly, also died out in 1972, the year of Roy's departure from the Officials. In 1978, the last gasp of the Wolfe Tone Society expired.

Techne Associates, a commercial brokerage for scientific innovation, engaged Johnston in the next decade....

[Comment by RJ 24/01/07: This is ambiguous, suggesting perhaps an employment situation; in fact it was (and remains) a registered business name under which I have engaged in various self-employed contracts.]

....From advising Labour, he moved into what would become the Green Party. Here, his dream, first conceived in the 1950s in France when he worked as a particle physicist, returned. The post-colonial model provided his next challenge. Science seemed too focused on the internal, while the imperial State's demands for technological growth appeared, in the Irish history of scientific and technological endeavours, to conflict. Cultural upheaval from pluralist tendencies worsened the stress for Irish scientists. The example of the Irish-born Marxist scientist JD (father of Martin) Bernal provided the best example of such tension that drove creative minds away towards success across the Irish Sea. The lessons learned, or those that could be avoided, from study of the Irish experience could, Johnston reasoned, educate Third World policy makers and development experts.

The 1990s found Johnston increasing his Green Party involvement. Its ideological exchanges allowed room for his re-thinking of the 'marginalised' aspects of past efforts to match idealism with pragmatism - anarcho-syndicalists, Guild socialists, co-operativists - that in the collapse of Stalinist centralized idolatry of the State might enrich future creativity among communities. Roy reminds leftists that if Marxism is to remain at all relevant, abandonment of 'top-down' schemes that perpetuate 'a centralist imperial system' must replace foolish dogma and heartless doctrine. He remains active, writing to Gerry Adams about the 1994 cease-fire, contributing to the Opsahl Commission, urging reform of the Orange Order, advising cultural minorities in the North. He hopes for a continuation of George Gilmore's Republican Congress, extended into the dimensions of decentralised Green participation and grassroots decision-making consensus.

In his conclusion, Johnston summarises the failures of the RM. The 'creative fusion' of Marxist theory with Fenian traditions fizzled under the hand of Goulding. Putting Sean Mac Stiofain in charge of military intelligence in 1967 gave him the chance to undermine the Republican Clubs in the North and to prepare for the re-emergence of the Provos in response to the B-Specials 1969 'pograms'. This played into the wishes of the hard-core Unionist leaders. The pace of the democratic left for social reform under the CR banner was 'forced' by the PD in January 1969 at the Derry march, 'which "trailed the coat" through a series of Antrim Protestant towns, and led to the Burntollet ambush'. (411) Sectarian polarisation pushed the CR into the Catholic ghettoes, generating a chain of events leading to what the Provos manipulated, military reaction. It also pleased the Unionists and the British forces desired: 'a military campaign which could be contained, with the working people of the North increasingly divided on sectarian lines, perpetuating British rule' (412) In this book, a phrase that captures the struggle from a veteran Irish leftist: the work to achieve the just society akin to the effort to make 'water run uphill'.

Johnston lists seven lessons, from the vantage point of this book's writing in 2005:

1. After military experience, activists find it difficult to adapt to democratic politics.
2. Regard the State as a referee rather than a player in the economic game.
3. Make the players - individuals or organisations - accountable to all who depend upon the economic firm.
4. Set up fair-trade rules, foster know-how in post-imperial situations, and encourage co-op and credit approaches.
5. Place local democratic government within national and international frameworks. Avoid government by 'in-groups' as has crippled India, Ireland, South Africa, Israel/Palestine: all of these states have 'derived from pathologies rooted in British imperial culture'. [414]
6. Consolidate land ownership under local authority, then lease to 're-zoned users'; long-term, 'private ownership of land needs to be questioned'.
7. Develop economies through sustainable resources.

The book concludes with thirteen appendices dealing with various aspects of Joe's involvement with economic issues, his publications, his political efforts, and Roy's scientific analyses. Comprehensive bibliographies and source references follow for the two Johnstons. While the indices are not fully complete, they selectively guide readers to frequently mentioned items.

The relevance of Johnston's lifework, and that of his father, reminded me of the debates that continued in a recent issue of The Blanket.

So many republicans courageously stood up to the Brits, verbally and physically, and paid a huge personal price. Sadly, it must be acknowledged that, when it came to speaking out against a leadership which sold out the movement and lied through its teeth, too many were found wanting. The people of no principle were able to do what they did because their followers were more loyal to personalities than ideology.

Geraldine Adams' reflections serve as a testimony to Roy Johnston and many other activists who dared to stand up for their own convictions against what became the mainstream, and eventually the safe and predictable and politically correct conventional wisdom. While many readers of The Blanket will disagree with Dr Johnston's precise diagnoses for the ills that continue to ail a divided Ireland not only in sovereignty but economic and cultural and practical control, the suggestions that he proposes to cure the patient, to resurrect the ideals for which he and his father have devoted the past century and more to healing, deserve our careful reflection. In our capitalist hegemony, the decades of Roy and Joe Johnston's thought and action offer alternatives for hope.

Reviewed in the Blanket web-site by Liam O Ruairc, January 21 2007

[See the review in context at http://lark.phoblacht.net/LOR210107.html]

A "Must Read" For Those With a Serious Interest

Roy H. W. Johnston, Century of Endeavour. A Biographical & Autobiographical View of the Twentieth Century in Ireland; Carlow: Tyndall Publications in association with The Lilliput Press, Dublin. Rev. ed. 2006. €40.00. ISBN 1-8-4351-080-4

Liam O Ruairc, 9 January 2007

Any person interested in the history and politics of Irish Republicanism will immediately associate the name of Roy Johnston with Cathal Goulding's attempts to transform the Republican Movement during the 1960s. In Century of Endeavour, Roy Johnston publishes a biography of his father as well as a detailed account of his own life and times.

The book is unlikely to have a wide readership as not many people are likely to be familiar with Roy Johnston or his father. Also, topics such as Bishop Berkeley's economic theory, agricultural research or life in Trinity College during the 1930s will only be of interest to the few. Finally, the fact that this book is very expensive is unlikely to encourage potential readers purchasing it.

The way the book is organised is not very user friendly, the separation of thematical from chronological themes tends to confuse the reader. On top of that the book refers to sources only available on the internet. But when checking the online material "available in full in the hypertext", the reader will be frustrated to find out that the hyperlinks do not work.

[Comment by RJ 24/01/07: They do, provided the reader contacts the author and gets the exact URL for the current location of the hypertext. This requirement is made clear on p1 of the Introduction, and the e-mail address is given. What is more, I (probably) made arrangements with the Editor of the Blanket to transmit the URL to the reviewers. It is a pity that this arrangement, if it existed, seems to have broken down.]

That said, Century of Endeavour will become a necessary reference for any future study of the Republican Movement and left politics in Ireland during the 1960s and early 1970s. The most useful parts of the book are those dealing with the author's personal involvement in political developments within the Republican Movement of the 1960s; although to get a full picture of the period, it is necessary to compare this book with Sean MacStiofain's autobiography and and Robert White's recent biography of Ruairi O Bradaigh. Very good source material is provided here by Johnston. He makes use of lots of original documents not available elsewhere such as Ard Comhairle minutes, obscure publications and personal reminiscences. Johnston has fascinating insights into the personality of people like Cathal Goulding, Mick Ryan, C.D Greaves or Seamus Costello. The author provides plenty of names, facts and anecdotes about the Republican Movement, the Wolfe Tone Society, the Civil Rights Movement, the Communist Party and the Connolly Association which will be of great interest to historians and political activists.

Of particular interest are his references to C. Desmond Greaves' personal diaries. It was interesting to find out what the author of The Life and Times of James Connolly (1961) and Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution (1971) could think for example about the Hungarian crisis of 1956 or Czekoslovakia in 1968. That said, Johnston does not criticize Greaves' transformation of Connolly's teachings into a Leninist trojan horse; to the point of falsifying Connolly's real stance during the First World War. Greaves' support for Lysenko's 'proletarian science' and rejection of genetics is also recalled. This is hardly surprising, as a crucial part of Roy Johnston's intellectual project was to bridge the gap between science and politics, technology and society. He stresses his debt to and the importance of people such as J.D. Bernal and Farrington; Irish scientists reknowned for their contribution to relate Marxism and Science.

However, there are some regretable ommissions in the book. Johnston for example does not reproduce his famous controversial letter on the alleged sectarian nature of rosary during Republican commemorations. Reading the book demystifies the popular but mistaken idea that the Republican Movement had become "Communist" or "Marxist" during the 1960s: the intellectual currents that Johnston tried to introduce were more liberal than leninist in nature. Johnston father and son are both fundamentally life-long liberals.

The quality of the material included in this book should make it a "must read" to anyone with a serious interest in the politics of the period.

Review, headed 'A half-century of failure'; in November 2007 issue of Socialist Voice the electronic newsletter of the Communist Party of Ireland.

I feel the need to intersperse some comments. RJ 05/12/2007.

Roy Johnston is a radical scientist, born in 1929 and educated at St Columba's College and Trinity College, Dublin. He held a scientific appointment with the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and in the 1960s worked in England, where he was active in the Connolly Association. Back in Ireland, he became an active member of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society and was a pioneer of science journalism, introducing the "Science and Technology" column in the Irish Times (under Douglas Gageby) in the 1970s.

The author's father was Dr Joseph Johnston, a gentleman-farmer and agricultural economist, fellow of Trinity College and Free State Senator, whose views became more progressive over the years.

JJ was plain Mr, or Professor, but he only became Dr in his final year, when he submitted his Berkeley book for the degree of D Litt. The attribute 'gentleman-farmer' is perhaps misleading, reared as he was on a 30-acre tenancy in Tyrone; 'hobby-farmer' he was, for a time, on the fringe of his role in academic agricultural economics; he found it useful to have some hands-on practice and to know the price of things; in this role his academic status gave him the opportunity to hob-nob with the local gentry, which he did, with an eye to finding out how the business worked. RJ.

Century of Endeavour tries to be four things simultaneously: a biography of Joe Johnston, an autobiography of Roy Johnston, a critique of science policy, and a critical history of the Irish left. The author juggles with the various subjects, linking them clumsily in "streams" that crisscross the conventional chapter structure, even presenting some elements in the form of hypertext links within the on-line version of the book on the author's web site (to which, however, access is restricted). The result is an undisciplined mishmash, the kind of spurious innovation that gives scientists a bad name.

I have had similar comments from others, but am unrepentant at having attempted a somewhat innovative approach, which others may perhaps take up and do better, taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the existence of the internet. Access to the hypertext is available on request from bona-fide owners of the book. The restriction is a requirement of the print-publisher. May I thank SOB for having drawn attention to this aspect, which a minority of reviewers up to now have done. RJ.

The young Roy Johnston was a founder of the Promethean Society while still a student and then in 1948 a founder-member of the Irish Workers' League, one of the forerunners of the present-day Communist Party of Ireland. Not being able to convince it of the error of its ways, he drifted away from the party to become, in succession, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, of Sinn Féin and the Official IRA, of the Communist Party of Ireland again (expelled in 1977), of the Labour Party, and finally of the Green Party. One after the other, he used these parties as vehicles for promoting his strategy of "left-republican convergence" and more recently an imagined "left-green convergence."

I was not the founder of the Promethean Society, but was an early recruit to the founding group, the prime mover of which was Paul O'Higgins. The suggestion of 'drift' introduced in the second sentence is misleading. I joined the CPGB when working in England, this being a natural progression from the IWL. On my return I did not re-join the IWL, but sought to broaden the field of Marxist thinking to include the republican aspiration to unified all-Ireland democracy, then seeking to politicise under Goulding's leadership. SOB appears to want to reject the need for a broad-based approach to the problem of gaining democratic control over capital (in a sustainable investment programme, in a small post-colonial national context) to which I aspired, and which remains to be attained. Is this 'drift'?

He loses no opportunity to abuse the Communist Party and to question its bona fides, repeating at regular intervals such terms as "Stalinist bureaucracy" and "the dead hand of Stalinism" and even at one point referring to the "pathology" of the CPI. There is much to criticise in the dogmatism and other failings of those years, but such criticism needs to be more than a repetition of Cold War slogans.

Readers of the book will see that my critiques usually were substantive, more than just slogans. I have remained on civil terms with the people concerned, and have been a regular seeker of channels of internal critical analysis, within the basic Marxist canon, of the factors within the Comintern and subsequently Cominform system which led ultimately to the collapse of the USSR. There has however been little critical analysis of the past within the CPI of which I have been made aware; this aspect needs to be developed, if the core-values of classical Marxism are to be rescued from oblivion in Ireland, upgraded and rejuvenated, and restored to the central role which they deserve.

Little or no credit is given to the programme of the CPI adopted in 1962, which identified the denial of democracy and civil rights as the Achilles heel of unionism, leading to the establishment of the civil rights movement, nor to the influence that programme had on a defeated and demoralised republican movement after yet another disastrous military campaign.

The 1962 programme was adopted when I was in England; it was not the CPI then, it was still the IWL, separate from the CPNI. The basic ideas said by SOB to be embodied in the so-called '1962 CPI programme' had been pioneered by Greaves years earlier, via the Connolly Association and the NCCL. The IWL and the CPNI resisted them. Had they actually taken them on board as early as 1962, on an all-Ireland basis, the Civil Rights movement might credibly have emerged via the Irish trade union movement, which is what Greaves had hoped for. In the absence of this, the impetus came via the Wolfe Tone Society and the politicising republicans. The fragility of this process left it open to the disasters which followed. I agree the details of the history of the 1960s and the role of the Left therein need further analysis.

It is a pity that Dr Johnston resorts to allegations that are completely untrue in his desire to blacken the CPI. He does this in particular in reference to the debacle of the Resources Protection Campaign, a broad organisation founded in 1973 to campaign for social control over newly discovered mineral resources.

My analysis of the RPC episode was incomplete, a mention in passing; it was an example of a broad-based movement being destroyed by left-sectarian in-fighting; I described it as I saw it, and I remain in the dark as to what is supposed to be 'untrue'.

The organisation was sabotaged by members of the Workers' Party (who are now advisers to Bertie Ahern and Tony O'Reilly), who voted out of office everyone who was not part of their organisation. Johnston lumps together those who wrecked the campaign and those (including some members of the CPI) who tried to defend it as a genuine broad organisation; he describes its final crisis as "an ignorant petty-bourgeois struggle between two so-called 'working-class' voting machines, in a contest for the ownership of an organisation which neither of them understood." (The CPI has been called many things but probably never before petty-bourgeois.) Only malice could produce such a false and bitter account of those events.

I had been involved via the professional science and engineering networks, who were totally alienated by what they saw on that occasion. It became a CPI-WP battleground. If there are lessons to be learned from it, at this remove, the key one is to keep left-wing in-fighting out of broad-based organisations trying to focus on complex issues.

With regard to socialism, Dr Johnston quotes with approval Seán Mac Stiofáin's truly petty-bourgeois ideal of "distributive ownership or co-operativism" as an alternative to the nationalisation of industry by a socialist state. Johnston's aim, according to himself, was "to build a neo-Marxist 'market socialism' model," of which the central idea was "direct democratic control over the capital investment process by the people concerned," with the state being "the referee and not a player."

Ownership of industry by the central State, SOB will perhaps admit, lacks a positive track-record in States where it was the norm. I was prepared to seek some common ground with Mac Stiofain in the area of the co-operative democratic approach to capital investment; I condemned him elsewhere but was prepared to credit him, in his early days, with the makings of a base on which a political approach could perhaps have been built.

This drastic failure to understand the nature and role of the state is a feature of all Roy Johnston's interventions in left-wing politics, making his views more akin to utopianism than to Marxism.

SOB's failure to recognise the need for Marxist analysis to reconstruct its approach to the role of the State is perhaps an indication of the reason that Marxism, at least in Ireland, remains currently very much on the sidelines. It is basic to the scientific approach that if you try an experiment and it does not work, you have to try to identify the factors at work, and learn from the experience. In this context, it is necessary to explore various possible imagined roads to the future, and test them against what is known. Is this utopian?

Some of the most interesting parts of the book are the extracts from the diaries of C Desmond Greaves, an English communist closely identified with the Connolly Association and indirectly with the CPI and Wolfe Tone Society, whose frank (and sometimes cynical) comments on personalities and events add a new dimension to our knowledge of those years.

Dr Johnston justifies his own role in important events, including some that shaped the latter part of the twentieth century in Ireland, in a way that makes it seem that he was the only one who operated honestly, while others are only manipulators or manipulated.

If SOB will give me examples of where this impression has been given, I will consider how best to amend them. I welcome his review as a stimulus to further research into the background to Irish political history.

His belief that the Green Party is the last remaining hope for "bottom-up democracy" must have taken a knock with that party's participation with Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats in a Government that is abolishing the public health service, allowing Shannon Airport to be used as a US air force base, and permitting Shell to proceed with its economically (and scientifically) disastrous pipeline in Co. Mayo, not to mention éamon Ryan's announcement of support for the revived constitution of the European imperialist bloc.

Comments like this may be obvious and relevant but are unrelated to the content of the book. They are indeed a partial statement of the current political agenda, and a matter for ongoing concern.

With his characteristic arrogance and an invincible belief in his own correctness, Roy Johnston has left behind a trail of half-baked initiatives and failed interventions. A century of endeavour, perhaps, but also a half-century of failure.

Yes I agree it is largely, though perhaps not entirely, a catalogue of failure, and I hope that placing it on record may perhaps enable some people in future to be more successful in rescuing and updating the core ideas of Marxism, in some democratic and broad-based form. Is the record of the doctrinaire ideological Left in Ireland, the direct descendents of the Comintern, not also one of failure? It is a pity SOB felt he had to be so uncivil about the former process, and to ignore the latter. RJ.


Irish Political Review October 2007; review by Sean McGouran.

This review was projected to be in 3 parts, spread over some months. I added some comments in italics, as they came in, and I hope finally to produce an integrated response, perhaps for publication in the same issue as the final part. The IPR politically is of the Left, with an independent and sometimes Trotskyist flavour. I welcome the opportunity to develop some of the points raised, for the benefit of a lay readership. The book was aimed mostly at the academic research community. RJ 07/12/2007.

This very bulky book is subtitled A Biographical and Autobiographical View of the Twentieth Century in Ireland. The import of which is that Roy Johnston tells the story of his father Joseph ('Joe') Johnston as well as his own. His father is referred to as 'JJ' and Dr. Roy Johnston as 'RJ'. There is a tendency to reduce the many people who move through these two lives, especially Roy Johnston's, to their initials. It makes reading about minor 'characters' slightly confusing, especially as there are inevitably alarge number of 'Mc/Mac's'.

This has been noted in other reviews, and I apologise for it. I think mostly where a new name appears I give it in full, with initials in brackets, and then resort to the initials subsequently. This however makes it difficult for indexing. If ever there is a third edition, I hope to tidy this up.

This first part of this review will take the story up to the launching of the 'Civil Rights' strategy in Northern Ireland (chapter 7, part 1, page, 209). It deals with the period 1961-1966, and is sub-titled 'Politics heats up'. RJ returned to Ireland from London in 1961, getting a job with Aer Lingus, having worked for Guinness in London. The latter's 'science' was done in Dublin, the technology in London. There was not a large enough cohort of technologists in Ireland at that time. This may explain the recent closure of the Guinness plant in London's Park Royal.

The job in west London appears to have been interesting but largely routine, RJ had time to help expand the Association of Scientific Workers and become a member of Acton Trades {Union} Council. He kept in with the Labour Party and Communist Party factions, and worked for the Connolly Association. He seems to be implying that the Connolly Association was not merely not part of the CPGB (Communist Party of Great Britain) but was at odds with the parent body. This does not seem to be the case, from evidence from other quarters (nearly everybody else on the Left in GB). The CA was not like, say, the Indian Workers' Association, which was genuinely autonomous, and tended to keep itself equidistant from Labour, the CPGB, and the Maoists. (The Trotskyists tended to want to dissolve such 'autonomist' groups, unless they proved a useful source of recruits.)

The CA was indeed set up by the CPGB in the 1930s but in the 1950s it established its independence under its own constitution, under which it has survived up to the present, after the demise of the CPGB. In my time it had some Party members but there were many others. Its main focus was on NI democratic reform and its target was to get the Labour movement to take this up.

C Desmond Greaves (CDG) looms large in this section of the book. He is quoted at length on a number of occasions, and has a very large entry in the Index. RJ first encountered him in 1948. CDG was on one of his political 'fishing' expeditions in Ireland. He was at that point interested in John de Courcy-Ireland, and the Fabian Society in TCD (Trinity College, Dublin).

RJ was a member of the Prometheus Society which had been started in St Colomba's College, and was (just about) present in TCD at the period of CDG's visit. Justin Keating was attached to the Prometheus Society (and the Fabian Society), while attending UCD (University College, Dublin).

We called it the Promethean Society.

RJ claims that even at this period he was a 'Connolly' socialist and not a 'Stalinist'. The Stalinist orientation of the CPGB and the USSR (which he describes on page 151 as "state-capitalist") repelled him. I am not disputing this, but he had the alternative of working in the Labour Party. The Irish Labour Party was small, but quite enormous compared to the Irish Workers' League (which became the IW Party, then Communist Party of Ireland). Labour was in government with Clann na Poblachta (upon which the hopes of many 'progressives' rested), and admittedly, the Blueshirt Fine Gael. One would have thought that the party founded by Connolly would have been the forum for a Connollyite, especially someone specifically anti-Stalinist. But 'Britain' seems to have exercised a fascination for both Johnstons.

I became a member of the Central Branch of the Labour Party in or about 1946 or 47 at the suggestion of de Courcey Ireland, but found it a long way from Connolly and Marxism. We decided a consciously Marxist party was needed, and we had a hand in setting up the Workers League. We were under the influence of Greaves, who was feeling his way within the CPGB environment towards a creative Marxist approach to the many post-colonial national issues, in the context of the break-up of the British Empire.

Joe Johnston was the product of a County Tyrone, Presbyterian, small farmer family. Nearly all his siblings, including the girls (quite unusual at that time - the turn of the last century) got a second and third level education by way of scholarships. JJ was a Classicist but became an economist, specialising in agricultural economics.

RJ quotes much of his father's strictures on Irish agriculture, in particular his interventions in the Senate he was a representative of TCD, losing his seat to W B Stanford, in 1948. There is a problem in that Ministers in question (Frank Aiken and Seán Moylan) are not allowed their 'spake'. One is left with the notion that JJ was simply speaking into a void. Aiken and Moylan are mentioned, in a slighting sort of way. They were both Fianna Fáil (FF) - of which more anon.

Anyone wanting to research the debates in full around the issues has access to the record. I was simply trying to give the flavour of JJ's thinking via his contribution to the debates.

It is claimed that JJ ran actual farms at two different periods, in two different places. One (during the War) was near Drogheda, the other near Clonmel in the fifties and sixties. There was also a model farm attached to TCD's agricultural department. But it seems to me that JJ was more in the way of being a 'gentleman farmer' than sharing the experiences of the '30 acre men'. FF is attacked for purchasing land and parcelling it out in thirty acre lots. JJ felt farmers they should be encouraged to set up co-operatives, or be employed on large mixed farms. It is probably accurate to say that such would be a more economic (in the sense of producing more food for smaller expenditure) use of the land. But it is a classic example of the academic in politics not noticing that 'economics' is not the be-all and end-all of politics. This procedure by FF was part of the working out of the redistribution of the land, from the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy caste to the people. There is no indication that FF interfered if the 'thirty acre' men wished to form themselves into co-operatives. There are further somewhat pointless 'digs' at this 'thirty acre' business, on page 146, for example, in the context of TCD's John Kells Ingram model farm.

Actually, he ran small farms on 4 different occasion, in Dundalk 1928-31, Drogheda 1931-35, Drogheda 1940-46 and then near Stradbally 1952-57 (dates approximate, from memory). In all cases he employed a man and kept accounts, and interacted with neighbours who kept farms of various sizes, in an attempt to get a feel for how the market worked. He used this information in his academic publication, and developed a feel for economies of scale, whence his support for the co-operative principle; he early concluded that the small farm on its own was not viable.

RJ mentions Father McDyer of Glencolmcille, Co. Donegal, in Chapter 7, and it is implied that he sent IRA personnel to do voluntary work in co-operatives there. But he nowhere mentions Muintir na Tire or Macra na Feirme, founded by Roman Catholic priests. There is no mention of the Irish Countrywomen's Association, set up in 1926, which was entirely secular in inspiration. Formerly the United Irishwomen, in 1916 it helped found the Women's Institutes in England and Wales. The UI / ICA was a 'spin-off' from Plunkett's co-operative movement of which JJ (and RJ) both approve. Despite the Ulster Presbyterian small farmer origins they seem to have absorbed an Ascendancy or 'Anglo-Saxon' attitude to the land of Ireland - it would be better, meaning more efficient, without all those people living on it.

I instanced McDyer as a contemporary example of local co-operative leadership, in a republican politicising context. We did attempt to activise members in support of local democratic organisations, in some cases with a co-operative flavour. As background to this, JJ's economic analysis of Irish agriculture had showed that the large-scale commercial mixed farm, employing labour under scientific management, producing many products, was capable of giving a better living to more people than the same area split up into isolated 30-acre units. He looked in vain however for evidence of this being done as a co-operative. This remains on the agenda, and could emerge in the coming global energy crisis.

Roy in Dublin
RJ worked in the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (set up by De Valera - possibly to get round the sectarian squabbling between TCD and UCD). JJ seems to have been prepared to acknowledge that this was not all one-way traffic. RJ seems to dump all the blame on Michael Tierney, he writes (p147) that Tierney and UCD were hostile to TCD "on Catholic-nationalist grounds". This was in the context of rivalry over who was to get the Agriculture and Veterinary courses. JJ disapproved of TCD dropping the 'Arts requirements' for such degrees. He wanted the students to have aFrench or German (presumably language) option. This was to get them to look to "the Continent" rather than to "Britain". The Tierney in question was presumably the Blueshirt intellectual, of the 1930s, which may be a secondary reason for RJ's ire. The same person leaned towards Bolshevism in the 'Civil War'.

I was only able to hint at the complexity of the TCD-UCD relationships in the 1950s. My 'ire' would have been against any kind of Protestant or Catholic exclusivism.

RJ takes every opportunity to have a 'dig' at Dev and Fianna Fáil: mostly they are standard 'Sticky' ('Official' Republican) 'tropes'. He seems to be still a 'Sticky' at heart. For example, FF set up the Provisional IRA. (The Provis, like the UDA, are an unambiguous fact of life in Belfast and the North, all the wishful thinking in the world will not magic them away. The above pairing may look odd but the two groups arose at roughly the same time in response to the same set of problems - occasioned by the collapse of the 'Northern Ireland' entity. The 'Provisionals' have become a substantial group, with a politicised cadre. The UDA (Ulster Defence Association) has degenerated into a group of gangs making money out of drug-dealing and other criminal scams. The point being that RJ's political (and to an extent social) perceptions have been distorted by propagandist nonsense about Fianna Fáil and the Provisionals.

If one goes to p273 note (5) references Justin O'Brien's book, published in 2000 by Gill & Macmillan; this note in the e-version of the book is hotlinked to some of my notes on the book, in which the evidence for Fianna Fail money being behind the support of the Provisional split is confirmed. We were very much aware of it at the time, observing the role of the Haughey-Blaney-Boland group; I remember seeing Gerry Jones, the FF-supporting property-development tycoon with the eye-patch, lurking in the company of leading Provisionals at the Ard Fheis in January 1970, when the Provisional walk-out took place. Our perception was that the Dublin property-development mafia felt threatened by the broad-based housing action movement which the left-politicising republicans were supporting, and wanted to encourage the re-invention of the IRA in its traditional role, via the HB&B group. This was not 'propagandist nonsense'; it was a significant element in the process of the emergence of the Provisionals under the leadership of Mac Stiofain. We had hoped to keep the struggle in the North at the level of civil rights, and win the right to work politically for the Republic in the North. When the guns were introduced by the B-Specials in August 1969, we were working, with the support of the Connolly Association and the NCCL in Britain, towards getting the British to recognise the role of the Specials, and to disarm them. The Blaney-fuelled Provisional armed response which followed alas set the process back 3 decades.

Other references read very like social snobbery, on page 17, he complains partition 'crippled' the co-operative movement, and about [Sir Horace] Plunkett being 'burned-out'. There is a somewhat snide aside on "one Edward (sic) de Valera" [the 'sic' provided by RJ - IPR] attending the British Association for the Advancement of Science Conference in Dublin in 1908. The attendance of David Houston, who "taught science at St Enda's Patrick Pearse's school" is noted. De Valera is mentioned in one of RJ's italicised asides in the text. "The culture link between science and the emerging national elite via de Valera was also flawed... when de Valera set up the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies..." he displayed a "limited understanding of the nature of the process of transformation of scientific research into social utility."

Dev signed himself Edward in the 1911 census, it has emerged; the reason for the 'sic' is that I found it surprising that he had not yet adopted the Eamonn handle. I fail to see the social snobbery. Dev's brave effort to find a home for Schroedinger and other scientific refugees from Fascism was indeed an enlightened international gesture; the Royal Society made him a Fellow (was it in or about 1959?) in recognition of it; he did however set up the DIAS with a seriously flawed constitution which impeded its ability to network within the Irish scientific community. I have made critical comments along these lines on many occasion. No way however is this 'snobbery'!

On the next page (18) RJ notes Sydney Gifford Czira's memory of the 1910 Sinn Féin Aonach na Nodlaig, which featured Harry Ferguson's aircraft (this is Harry Ferguson the tractor man). RJ seems to be implying that the "innovative entrepreneurial" spirit abroad in Ireland at that time was dissipated, presumably by the likes of Dev and FF.

No way. The implication intended was that the Protestant entrepreneurial community at that time were prepared to think all-Ireland and to relate positively to Sinn Fein. Pirrie who headed Harland and Wolfe was a Home Rule supporter.

The waste of talent in the course of the Great War, the War of Independence, and 'Civil War' is not referred to. Neither is the fact that with Harry Ferguson and Dunlop resident in Belfast, it is something of an achievement that the city did not have an extensive car industry. (Rex McCandless of Crossgar held dozens of patents in this field - he was also a world famous racing motor cyclist.) The Aonach na Nodlaig is noted as "a major public event", apparently publicised largely by The O Rahilly, "with extensive participation by Northern industry". But, as noted above 'Northern industry' faded after Partition. Ferguson, Dunlop and others out-migrated. With the exception of Faulkner, from the small capitalist class himself, 'Stormont' Ministers simply held their hands out to Westminster. The bustling, entrepreneurial, industrial North of Ireland is now an economic dust bowl, hoping to earn money from 'ghoul tourism' based on our recent blood-letting, and the Titanic. The latter is only one of hundreds of great liners built in Belfast. But even natives of the place could be forgiven for thinking that it was the town's one attempt at a big boat.

With the exception of the first sentence, there is much common ground in this paragraph, for a change; the whole of my book is directed at making known how Partition killed off the opportunity for Protestant enterprise to participate in the emerging national context. The first sentence suggests an area of which I was acutely aware, and should perhaps have highlighted more.


JJ was opposed to Protectionism, being in essence a Manchester Liberal. RJ appears to endorse this stand. The protection of local industry "was the root of all government corruption, with politicians bought by protected capitalists, as exemplified in the Indian National Congress process, and repeated in Fianna Fail". (Page 18, surely this is the wrong way round, 'Éire' became at least quasi-independent before India). Ireland (inevitably a small economy) and India (potentially a huge economy) had both been parts of the City of London's Empire. This slating of India emerges from a book, The Political Future of India, by James Johnston, uncle of RJ, and a former member of the ICS (Indian Civil Service), who produced a number of other books in the 1930s, Can the Hindus Rule India? and Hindu Domination in India - RJ writes that James Johnston "was very critical" of aspects of Hindu culture. Where did Muslim culture stand in his estimation? Judging from the titles (not usually the best approach, admittedly) these books may have been Partitionist in effect, certainly the Muslim League must have welcomed them.

This suggests a number of interesting hares to chase, in the comparison of Indian and Irish experience. Firstly, on Protection, JJ was opposed to it where it increased the price of inputs to the agricultural production process, and this in the early days was considerable. He came around to supporting it where industry based on local resources was concerned. His critical writings on the detail of FF policy are extensive. Dev recognised his work, and his final stint in the Senate was as a Dev nominee.

James in India was critical of Congress economic policies, which were influential in the direction of Protection where Congress had influence under British rule. Firms could bribe politicians to get protection. This process was not invented by Fianna Fail. Protection and land rezoning are classic generators of political corruption, and these remain as central problems in the political economy of the development process. The Manchester School had a point, but there are other ways of dealing with the problem than universal 'free trade', which benefits early developers at the expense of their neighbours.

James was a long way from being a 'partitionist'; he helped JJ write his Civil War in Ulster book in 1913, aimed at selling all-Ireland Home Rule to the Northern Protestants, and exposing the dangers of the processes that led in 1914 to the Larne gun-running (whence the title). He had a high regard for the Muslims, whom he saw as more egalitarian; he was however very aware of how they tended to be marginalised in the Congress Party, dominated as it was by the caste-ridden Hindus. He was critical of the Hindus because he saw the danger of Partition coming. There is a serious comparative study of the Indian and Irish Partition processes needing to be done; to my mind it will probably bring out how in both cases the process was encouraged to happen, in the perceived British imperial interst.

There is an obsession in this book with the wickedness of Fianna Fáil, and its founder Dev, who is never referred to as such, despite RJ's minor obsession with diminutives. JJ developed a "devastating critique" of FF policies in the 1930s. Presumably this was despite the fact that 'amid the bulks of actual things' FF's policies were quite successful. The economy was in better shape in 1940 than it had been in 1930. When JJ was voted off the TCD Senate panel, De Valera reinstated him, in 1951, as part of the Taoiseach's panel of nominees. Dev is compared (page 57) to Mugabe, an analogy which is clearly not meant to be flattering to either man. However, the process RJ is discussing, the distribution of the land from 'commercial farmers' to the people who actually work it, is essentially the same. Except that in 'De Valera's Ireland' the process was quite painless for the owners of large farms and estates. He quotes a Senate debate of 22nd February 1944 in which JJ claims that Cromwell led a Fascist revolution (page 91). JJ complained that Senate debates were 'censored' - largely because some of his remarks weren't reported in newspapers - but this was in the middle of the second World War. RJ's interpolation here reads: "JJ here identified the historical process which has perverted republican democratic reform movements into throwing up autocratic leaderships such as Cromwell, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. He was perhaps hinting implicitly at a similar process behind the rise of de Valera." In that case he must have been embarrassed when the same fascist invited him back into the Senate.

These snippets picked out of context from an extensive and complex process are difficult to respond to. Overall, the common ground between myself and my father is a respect for Dev, for having kept us neutral in the war, and a critique of the way Fianna Fail has spearheaded the development of a corrupt and clientelist political tradition.

Dr. Roy Johnston's interpolation is difficult to understand. A label is sometimes used to cover such people as he mentions: 'revolutionary despot'. Cromwell became a despot / dictator because the English Republican State lost faith in itself. RJ and a number of similar intellectuals seem to hope something similar will happen to the Irish Republican State. Bonaparte seems a more blatant case of military adventurism but the French Republic was enfeebled by the extraordinary 'self denying ordinance' of the members of the first National Assembly in refusing to stand for election in subsequent Assemblies. The people who had been forced to construct a Republican State simply absented themselves from politics. Napoleon became a monarch and reinstituted the Church, because that was what la France profonde wanted, and more to the point, needed. To that extent he was a despot, but he left the land settlement intact, and even the returned Bourbons left the land in the hands of the peasantry. Napoleon Bonaparte remained a revolutionary in that his forces carried the basic principles of the French Revolution to every land in mainland Europe (and England could not completely cordon-off Ireland from the infection).

Putting Hitler in the context of 'republican democratic reform movements' is a bit odd. It may refer to his giving some substance to the 'socialist' bit of National Socialism. It may also have to do with the fact that in certain sections of Irish society today, any old nonsense is entertained in regard to Dev and FF. Lenin was hyper-democratic in his propaganda, especially in The State and Revolution, which is practically Anarchist. In his practical politics he had no problems in ignoring vulgar matters like majorities, not even within his own Party. When Stalin took the Soviet State in hand, every 'Stalinist' convention was already in place. He simply used them to make the USSR the superpower that smashed Hitler's war machine and balanced-out the USA for half a century.

I agree there is much to be learned from the analysis of historical events, how democratic movements can be subverted, and the role of arms in the situation. In the 1640s in the English Republic I would have supported Lilburne. It is hard to see who might have kept the French democratic republic on track. Counter-revolutionary intervention from abroad was in both situations a factor (in England, from Scotland, under French influence). Once we are in a military situation, it is difficult to keep democracy top of the agenda. Hitler emerged via a thuggish pseudo-left. There are a good few interesting historical seminars in the previous two paragraphs! When and where can we get to do them, and on what neutral ground?

Dev was a republican, a democrat, and a substantial reformer (see above on the peaceful redistribution of land): quite why he is being turned into a bogeyman is difficult to understand. There are a number of asides about Dev, most of which seem intended to demonstrate his narrow-mindedness. In footnote 25, page 376, Chapter 11, he mentions "de Valera's earlier scheme for developing a Radio Eireann World Service". Dev's notion is undated. (It would be interesting to know who put the kibosh on this, given that 'Athlone' was not available to all of the Six Counties, and the Irish national television station seems to have been deliberately organised so that much of Northern Ireland could not receive the signal. Some of these problems are technical and geographical - in the Newry area it is difficult to pick up signals from anywhere - except the mindless commercial (one man and a wee lad) Omeath station. But many Northerners still have to go to pains to get RTÉ's signal. Allegedly, the homes of UDA officers can be pinpointed quite easily. They are the ones with television aerials on three metre high masts, to get the signal from the 'donkey cart Republic' - for the sport. Radio Éireann comes across clear as a bell in the flatlands of Lancashire.) This aside on a World Service is fairly neutral, but it is the only one in the book.

I really regret having given the impression that Dev was a 'bogeyman'; I never thought this; yes we were critical of him, but he certainly had his qualities. I should perhaps have balanced the comments better. As regards the RE World Service, I reference it in the hypertext in the 1980s political stream. I should add that the project began in the 1940s, and there was no equipment available, so Dev got Ernest Walton in TCD to build a transmitting power-valve adequate for the job. With the limited vacuum technology available in the TCD physics lab at the time, this was was problematic, and the tube had to be continuously pumped; some trials were made, but the project was abandoned. After the war, a commercial vacuum-tube of adequate power was purchased, and a system installed, but then when the inter-party government came to power, it was stopped, and the equipment sold. In this context Dev undoubtedly had some vision. Walton did his best, but the infrastructure for science-based technology was totally inadequate; this incidentally was a consequence of 1930s Fianna Fail protectionist industrial policy, which lacked any insights into the need for an innovative technological 'cutting edge', and science in general was neglected.

Page 323 mentions JJ's final political acts as part of an "anti-EEC" campaign, but RJ does not say what he felt about such matters. Having been in, at the least, the 'catchment area' of the CPGB, and at that point still in the 'official' Republican movement he would have been opposed to the EEC. The CPGB's, the CPI's (and the Workers' Party of Ireland-to-be) grounds were, in essence, Soviet - the USSR did not want a Christian / Social Democratic potential superpower on its doorstep.

'Both wings', as it was put those days, of the Republican movement were opposed to 'Europe', for reasons that would not have embarrassed an English 'Euroskeptic'. JJ, characteristically, opposed membership because of the CAP (common agricultural policy). His reasoning was Manchester Liberal: it would interfere with trade. That any other policy would depopulate the land appears to be of no account. (The current Administration in the US is subsidising the agricultural sector, not because it has problems with 'agri-business', or fears that America may not be able to feed itself. The motivation is that the term 'American farmer' is in danger of becoming as antiquated as 'Wild West'.)

Anthony Coughlan, who is mentioned frequently in this book is still opposed to the EU on vaguely nationalist / 'anti-imperialist' grounds. This is despite the fact that membership of the Union has boosted output in Irish agriculture. The EU has been very solicitous of minorities since its inception: without it a number of 'lesser used' languages would be extinct or in a very bad way. Undoubtedly the increasing dominance of the 'Anglo-Saxon' economic liberal approach in the EU will make life difficult for them and make the term 'farmer' redundant as it very nearly is in Great Britain.

There are again a good few seminars in this paragraph. I opposed the EEC because at the time I found the Coughlan analysis convincing; it was in effect a new larger-scale Act of Union, handing over our national independence to become a fringe province of a neo-imperial superstate. The USSR's opposition was understandable, with Germany among the prime movers. JJ's opposition was not simply Manchester; it was based on his argument that the key to independent economic development is that the primary agricultural producers have to get a decent price, so that they can have money in their pockets to help develop a local market for home industry. Subsidised European and US food and fibre production generate surpluses which are dumped on the world market, depressing it. Agriculture in Europe and the US should go for their local urban markets with perishable stuff that does not travel well, and generally go up-market. Current thinking is evolving in this direction, via the organic and 'slow food' movements. It would be interesting to analyse the extent to which Soviet opposition actually motivated the Left in the West; it may indeed have been a factor.

There have indeed been good EEC effects, but the role of the original CAP was not one of them, with the volume-based subsidies generating 'mountains' and financing industrial-scale monocultures. The current restructuring of the CAP in the direction of a social and environmental subsidy is a positive step, from which the organic movement is benefiting. The funding of scientific research has been positive, and science in Ireland has benefited. No doubt analogous arguments were made in the 19th century about the Act of Union and its effects. There undoubtedly remain sovereignty problems, and these no doubt will be discussed at length in the run-up to the referendum on the Constitution Treaty.

Dr. Johnston's attitudes to Irish politics (which consists mostly of a blind loathing of Fianna Fáil, and thereby, an increasingly odd attitude to its opponents), and the build-up to the explosion in the North, will be dealt with in the next part of this review.

Part 2 of Review by Sean McGouran of Roy Johnston's Memoirs

This appeared in the February 2008 issue of the Irish Political Review, with the header Fianna Fáil - 'mafia-like"?

In a paper On the Problems of Democratic Unity to a (temporarily resurrected) Wolfe Tone Society (WTS) Roy Johnston (RJ) worried at Fianna Fáil's "mafia-like control of the working-class". The fact that FF behaved like a Labour Party may have had something to do with the matter. Fianna Fáil introduced reforms in the working class interest, and the working class voted for the party to encourage it to introduce more such reforms. The matter may not be as crudely simple as the above but it isn't 'rocket science'. There may have been a "convergence of progressive elements" in the parties of the Left, but FF had been a mass political party for more than half a century at this point. The paper was published in The Ripening of Time, Issue 9, March 1978. Dr Johnston feels it may have made a bigger impact if it had been published somewhere other than the journal of an "ultra-left splinter group" (p334).

The reason for the reconvening of the WTS was to issue a statement agreeing with Jack Lynch's call for "national unity" (meaning uniting Ireland). This is really strange as Dr. Johnston takes practically any opportunity that arises to attack Fianna Fáil, and anyone contaminated through dealing with it. He identified in his (1978) paper, "the type of parasitic bourgeoisie which is currently (2002) being exposed in the Tribunals". One assumes that this is not a reference to members of the legal profession who have made fortunes in these Constitutionally-ambiguous variety shows, which have 'exposed' very little. The reporting of them, and even their own reports consist of innuendo and hearsay. Politicians (largely Fianna Fáil) have had their words, and private financial arrangements, 'taken down, twisted round, and used as evidence against' them. The Tribunals have created a situation where the democratic process has been made ancillary to a bogus 'judicial process'.

Both my father and I have been critical of FF where it has shown evidence of being bought by propertied interests. Lurking behind the current Tribunals is the habitual use of the added-value of land on rezoning as a means of political bribery. The reviewer appears to discount this, and to accept the FF smokescreen attempts to discredit the Tribunal process. The latter however does leave much to be desired, in terms of cost to the public finances. Legislation to specify the ownership of the added value on rezoning as being social rather than private would solve most of not all of the problems which are evident in the urban planning process. A compulsory purchase order of development land, at its agricultural price plus cost of re-location of any agricultural operations, followed by lease-back to new users subject to rezoning conditions, at an appropriate rate to cover local government services, would be one way of doing the job.

An obsession with FF's wicked ways runs all through the book, on page 82, Joseph Johnston ('Joe' or JJ - RJ's father) attacked De Valera's attempt to change the PR system of election to a first past the post one. "...[A] Government (meaning Fianna Fáil - SMcG) Senator adduced arguments suggesting that PR was at the root of the current state of European politics. JJ took strong exception to this ...". He suggested that it had prevented single party government, and it appealed to "the minority". The thrust of RJ's argument is that PR has not prevented single party government. JJ's response suggests that he did not take FF's Republicanism seriously. Fianna Fáil may well have had its collective tongue in its cheek, but it officially looked forward to an Ireland of citizens. And not of self-conscious minorities. It is interesting that the attempts to get rid of PR are treated as plot to strengthen FF's position.

Has anyone ever suggested that they were anything else?!

Presumably the most able political formation in the State did not set out to weaken itself. But the notion that a First Past The Post system would also consolidate a major party of opposition does not appear to present itself to RJ's mind (or that of any other any oppositionist), which speaks volumes about the quality of Irish politics. The major oppositionist party would probably have been the conservative Fine Gael, with FF as the radical party. But it is not writ on stone that the Labour Party that would not have won out. Though it is probable that FF would still have been the radical party in the State.

The reviewer seems to prefer the primitive English electoral system.

There is a curious aside (p91) about a row between JJ, Sir John Keane and Frank Aiken (something of a bête noire for JJ - and other opposition politicians). RJ refers to an Irish Times poster reading Senator Johnston on Irish Re-union. He seems to be implying that Aiken censored a speech by his father. But there is no record of such a speech in JJ's papers. Despite that RJ writes ominously: There is unfinished business here. It could be the relatively trivial business of a speech not delivered, or a misunderstanding on the part of the Irish Times. (There is also the question of posters in war time 'Éire'. Was there enough paper to go round for the papers to have the luxury of posters? RJ surmises that these incidents occurred in 1944.)

There undoubtedly was an occasion when a Seanad record was expunged. JJ never kept records of his Seanad speeches; he relied on the public record.

Aiken is the villain of the piece (p94), in accusing Senator James Douglas of being 'pro-Blueshirt', RJ's italicised intervention reads (in part): "The 'Blueshirt' jibe from the Fianna Fail benches confirms the need for a revaluation of that movement. JJ had also been close to Dermot MacManus: part of the Blueshirt intellectual support system." The Blueshirts have to be re-evaluated simply because the term was used by a FF Minister in mid-1945! This implies that the Government had no democratic validity. But FF had a habit of winning elections. The Opposition parties accused FF of calling elections to suit itself. But that is persiflage, the small change of any parliamentary system. Suggesting that Frank Aiken was particularly evil for throwing the jibe across the floor is absurd. There is also the small fact that - like almost half the electorate at one point - James Douglas might well have been 'pro-Blueshirt'. Apart from Maurice Manning's rather shifty study of the phenomenon, Aubane Historical Society has engaged in reassessing the Blueshirts, over the last fifteen years since the publication of Ned Buckley's poems.

In regard to the 1945 Land Bill, RJ comments: "It is worth remarking that this allocation of land individually to landless people is rural areas was the way in which Fianna Fail in the 1930s purchased votes using public money, generating the pathological political culture in which subsequent corruption has flourished." This has to do with the, reasonable, argument that big estates and farms ought to have been made into co-operatives, or worked as 'commercial farms'. It may have been better if FF had redistributed the land in the recommended way. It didn't and the results have to be lived and worked with. JJ and similarly inclined people could have used Fianna Fáil's Irish Press to agitate about co-operatives.

As to the suggestion of FF 'purchasing votes'. There is no indication of how this was done, or how FF policed these votes!. Labour Party agitators in Scotland were wont (when the place was a Tory stronghold), to imply that tweedy types sat outside isolated polling stations in the Highlands counting the people who turned up to vote and assessing who had not voted the 'right way'. 'Kangaroo courts' were hinted-at, and tenants were chucked out of their houses and jobs in revenge. Did anything of that sort happen in Ireland in the 1930s and '40s? It certainly did not.

There are many hares worth chasing here. Perhaps p94 will encourage some scholars to chase them.

Dr. Johnston appears not recognise a class distinction in the followings of FF and FG. The Blueshirts consisted, among others, of big farmers hurt by the 'Economic War'. There were also small landholders, and people who were genuinely afraid that the 'Civil War' might be avenged, or even recommenced. Most small landholders supported FF, a preference their children might have brought into the burgeoning towns with them. But, as noted above, FF made laws which were of use to working class people. Dr Johnston's seems to think that FF not being Socialist makes such behaviour invalid.

RJ (p104) quotes JJ on Irish industrial development by the end of the War. He (JJ) seems to regret that this was based on the profits made by farmers in the course of WW1. But where else could the capital be got other than from banks which are based on profit? (I am assuming, possibly wrongly, that he was complaining about the farmers' tax burden.) He described (in a debate on the Industrial Alcohol (Amendment) Bill 1946) on 15thJanuary 1947, that some Irish industries were 'well founded'. He named the cement and the electricity industries, one was heavily protected, and the other was in State hands from start. (There is no mention of the immediate post-war hydroelectric scheme on the river Erne involving partnership with 'Stormont'.) The industries which were not 'well founded' are not named, the sugar industry was pretty successful.

JJ was opposed to the building of a fertiliser factory on the grounds that its product would be "more expensive than imported…" material. This was relatively shortly after a World War in which both sides (racist fascism and racist liberal capitalism) had invaded and bullied small (and not so small) states at will. The attitude of some Fianna Fáil Ministers dealing with JJ may have been rather too brusque, but they must occasionally have thought he was from a different planet.

In discussing these matters I am making the - possibly false - assumption that RJ generally agrees with what JJ has said and written, unless he indicates that he does not. In December 1947 JJ made the following intervention in the Senate: "During the past fifteen years the Minister's Party has by no means been in the political wilderness - on the contrary it has enjoyed the fruits of office - but perhaps during much of that time it was in a sort of moral wilderness, living on the husks of exploded political, economic and ideological fantasies...." There is more of this truly obscure stuff, which RJ writes is "worth quoting in full". It seemed to be about FF being about to lose an election. RJ writes that JJ "complimented the Government on taking part in world conferences and generally acting the good neighbour in regard to European recovery".

The implication being that the FF Government had not done such things since 1932. But 'De Valera's Ireland' had a distinct foreign policy, based on the use of the League of Nations (rather than the British Commonwealth, alias 'Empire'). Despite the realisation that the League had proved useless as a means of keeping the peace of the world, and helping small nations, the person who kept the organisation in being during the War was the Ulster, Protestant, Sinn Féiner, Seán Lester. The League was able to morph into the 'United Nations' organisation because of his efforts. This sort of thing rather knocks the notion that Ireland was 'insular' (which seems to be the import of what JJ said) on the head. Ireland opened out to the world in other ways, not least by setting up a national airline. There is no doubt that Great Britain was Éire's most important trading partner, but JJ appears to have been of the opinion that it should remain the only one.

I tried to document JJ's evolution from his FG position in the 1930s, via his critical support for FF during the war, to active support post-war, with a degree of explicit admiration for de Valera, which probably cost him his TCD Seanad seat. This process would support a study in some depth, which perhaps someone may be motivated to do. I was of course critical of him myself at the time, being immersed in post-war leftist euphoria.

There is a slightly strange 'dig' at FF in relation to Dev's brainchild the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), where RJ worked in the mid-1950s. Despite Dev, RJ claims that the future of the Institute was in doubt. The Minister of Education, Jack Lynch, visited the facility and made a game attempt to understand what was going on. (It had to do with high-energy particle physics.) RJ writes that Lynch appeared to defer to his Israeli colleague Gideon Alexander, as the 'foreign expert'. This clearly still rankles with him.

It is difficult not to have a certain amount of sympathy with RJ in this matter. He was irritated about his part in the process, and the work of the DIAS, a world leader in aspects of science, being (apparently) downgraded. He makes the incident the source of a generalised condemnation of 'the Establishment'. "Slave minded deference to Church and foreign expert went hand in hand." (The reference to the Church has to do with the row over John McGahern's sacking from his job as a National School teacher, as a result his first published novel.) The State, as ever, in those days did what the Church wanted. It is moot whether or not Jack Lynch deserves this abuse. He was hardly the first Government Minister to truckle to the Church. Ten years earlier Seán MacBride had repudiated a Ministerial colleague (Noel Browne) for attempting to do something (which FF did when it won the next election). This was his Mother and Child Scheme a modest piece of welfare legislation.

The object of this illustrative incident was to show that the existence of native expertise, from which foreign students were able to learn, was an alien concept in the Government mind-set. It did not 'rankle'; at the time we were amused by it. I only appreciated its significance later.

One can't help feeling that RJ was not in a position to criticise Lynch, or anybody else, for deferring to 'foreign experts', given his own deference to CDG (C Desmond Greaves) who ran the British Communist Party's Irish front organisation, the Connolly Association. English people are not as 'foreign' in Ireland as Israelis, but CDG represented Soviet Communism, which was regarded as exotically unpleasant. CDG seems to have had a proprietorial attitude to the Left in Ireland. But he seems not to have had an 'instinct' for what was going on in Irish society, particularly in the 1960s. (He may have deliberately misinterpreted Connolly, but, so far as he was concerned Connolly could only be a proto-Leninist.) What frightened the Unionist Establishment in Northern Ireland in the 1960s was that the Croppies were becoming Brits. They were joining Brit Trade Unions in droves, and were fascinated by 'proper' Westminster politics.

Greaves was basically part of the Irish left-wing movement, and in that context he did his best to decouple its thinking from slavish dependence on Moscow, and to build on the ideas of Connolly. He never 'represented Soviet Communism'; he took a dim view of the tendency of the younger Irish Workers League members to feel they had to vacation there.

RJ writes (ps 231 / 232) "...when NICRA [the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association] demands began to be realised...there was not in existence a broad-based non-violent democratic movement, with an all-Ireland structure to take advantage of it. Fianna Fail irredentism took over, with a strong Catholic-nationalist flavour, and the basis for the armed B-Specials pogroms of August 1969 and the subsequent emergence of the Provisionals, was laid." This is an extremely confusing assertion. RJ mentions 'proto-Provisionals' on a number of occasions, people like Jimmy Steele and Proinisias MacAirt. They were really questioning, not so much the demilitarisation of the IRA, as the high-handed way it was being done.

RJ admits that Cathal Goulding was using military authority to push through the politicisation of the movement - and not discussion in democratised structures. It is difficult to know what RJ expected from Civil Rights agitation: he writes the he had a different concept of how to treat the North than CDG or Anthony Coughlan. The addiction of Catholics in Belfast and Derry and to an extent Newry to Brit politics was rather hard to break. If the Labour Party had extended its organisation to Northern Ireland in 1969 the Provisional IRA would probably have been stillborn. The Unionists are the authors of their own misfortune in that department, they drove the Brit Catholics back into the Taig corral.

It is dubious to claim the FF was 'irredentist', or any more so than the other parties in the Republic: Fine Gael, after all, is the United Ireland party. RJ appears not to believe that there is any validity whatsoever in the 'Northern Ireland' entity, which may be a reason why he objected to the 'Civil Rights ' strategy - it might have consolidated the place. He also appears to be implying that the B-Specials had to be provoked into acting against the Taigs. But that was their reason for being from the very early 1920s. 'Stormont' is not blamed for mobilising the force in August 1969. Very few people could have been under the impression that such an action would not have dire consequences.

The UVF, whether of the 1912 or 1966 mobilisation, is not mentioned in this text. Neither is the fact that the UDA was in place in embryo in the Shankill and Woodvale 'Defence Associations' by early 1969. The Peoples' Democracy and the "IRB military conspiratorial tradition" in the Republican Movement bear all of the responsibility for the balloon going up in August. The fact that Ardoyne was under siege from Spring 1969 is not noted.

In an italicised intervention (p262) RJ ruminates on who planned the pogrom. He gets very close to blaming Ruairí Ó Bradaigh who seems to have been retailing Belfast street intelligence (conceivably about the violence in and about Ardoyne). The pogrom probably was not planned, in the sense that there was a central 'command' who or which gave orders. There were far too many groups involved: the Defence Associations, which appear to have been genuinely spontaneous formations, and the UVF, which according to Gusty Spence, was set up by a 'Stormont' Minister, and the 'B-Men'.

No way was I 'blaming Ruairí Ó Bradaigh'; he probably was picking up street vibes; but I often wondered if the Unionist Establishment people who wanted the IRA to re-emerge in traditional mode as a Unionist unifier were engaged in leaking intelligence for people to pick up?

When Robert Porter, Minister of Home Affairs (in what looked very like a slightly sleazy police state), was asked at a press conference after the events of the 14 / 15 August 1969 how many Specials had been mobilised he claimed that the did not know. The assembled journalists just laughed at him. But it is probable that he genuinely did not know. The B-Specials (the Ulster Special Constabulary from 1968) were in essence a Protestant society. In country areas they probably had closer connections with the local Orange Lodge than with the professional police. Forcing the croppies to lie down was not a matter that required a great deal of thought organisation in the Wee Six.

RJ (p263) remarks that "it should have been possible to break through to the British Government ...beginning to be aware of the RUC and B-Specials problem...to pre-empt the pogrom. Why did this not happen?" The London Government knew all about the RUC and USC, but they (Labour and Tory) did not want to dirty their hands in 'Ulster'. They pretended that the place had constitutional rights, and that 'intervention' was a big step, which was nonsense. The troops who were 'sent' to Belfast, came all the way from Ballykinlar, County Down.

The various analyses by subsequent historical scholarship of how the basis for August 1969 was laid have always seemed to me to be incomplete. The missing link, to my mind, is the identification of the leading elements in the Unionist Establishment who felt they needed the IRA to continue to exist in its traditional mode, as an 'external threat', in order to unite the Protestant population behind Unionist Tory leadership. To this group, the support of political republicanism for civil rights was perceived as a real threat. That is my working hypothesis. It needs to be considered critically, and the evidence, if it exists, identified.

Fianna Fáil, and in particular Neil Blaney are blamed for the formation of the Provisional IRA, though the PIRA was a spontaneous growth, which had one gun in October 1969 when it split from the Dublin headquarters. RJ claims that by 1971 "...Provisionals...seen...as totally destructive influence on the working class unity we had tried to nurture...". This is as arrogant as the claims made by the PD (Peoples' Democracy) about their own 'revolutionary role' in destroying the 'Government' of 'Northern Ireland'. The actual Government of Northern Ireland resides in Westminster. Working class unity was the work of decades by the Trade Unions. It is probably the influence of the Unions that made the workplace, by and large, neutral ground. (There have been work place killings - but the response has usually been strike action, public protests, or even more direct action. When a (Catholic) Council worker in Belfast was shot in the early 1990s, every other employee 'walked off the job' - but not before a handful of Inspectors with UDA 'connections' were told to get out of certain yards - and not come back). Admittedly, these were 'bottom up' actions, but they do demonstrate the depth of Union solidarity.

It is good to see some confirmation of our feeling that working-class organisation was a positivel factor; we could have developed this had political republicanism emerged as a force a civil rights environment.

RJ puts the above situation in the context of a "Heath-Lynch collusion" to drag us into the EEC, with Ireland being England's perpetual patsy. This is described a bringing Ireland back into "the Empire" - whose empire is not specified. Can RJ and people like Derry Kelleher and Uinseann MacEoin have assumed that the UK would immediately take over the direction of the Community? Neither France nor Germany, nor Italy, or even the Benelux states were particularly fond of Brit arrogance. They had built the Community in spite of rather than because of the 'Anglo-Saxons'. It has taken the same 'Anglo-Saxons' decades to destroy the Community / Union. And now it does have Ireland as a perpetual patsy. The latter is largely the destructive work of the people RJ was allied with in the fight to keep Ireland out. Being part of the European Union (a misnomer now that Manchester Liberal policies are the order of the day) has done Ireland nothing but good. Haughey (not even mentioned in the Index) was sneered at simply because he was a European figure.

We tended to accept the EEC as a neo-imperial entity, and to regard participation in it as a new Act of Union. It remains to be seen whether we were right; how the EU relates to Africa and the Middle East post-Lisbon will perhaps be an indication.

Practically the last mention of Fianna Fáil in this book has to do with an Open Letter to Jack Lynch, dated August 9 1971, here it is:

"1. The claim that civil rights for the Six Counties within the UK constitute the 'Achilles heel' of Unionism stands vindicated.

2. Crude nationalistic statements from 26-county political ends (? - SMcG) by spokesman close to the Government have helped identify undeservedly the civil rights movement with the partition question and to drive it into the ghettoes, giving rise to the present danger of civil war in which the prime suffers would be the divided working people.

3. The onus is on Westminster to undo the damage done by the Carsonite rebellion. This is possible if it (a) abandons all claims to rule Ireland (b) announces a programmed disengagement (c) disarms the Orangemen and bans the Orange parades (d) imposes a Bill of Rights on Stormont and concedes enough independence to Stormont to enable it to take its own EEC decision and to deal with Dublin as it wishes.

4. The onus is on Dublin to secularise the Constitution and to provide for an Irish federal regional structure.

5. Any talks between the reformed Stormont and Dublin to be entirely a matter for the Irish without interference by Westminster.

6. No internment, whether as part of a package deal or otherwise.

7. No political settlement involving re-drawing the border, movements of populations, 'Catholic areas' or any principle which questions the Irishness of Protestants."

If the above had been put into effect the civil war which had been raging for a good year at that point would have become many times worse. The working class were fighting that war, car bombs and 'civil rights' rather cancel each other out. The term "Carsonite rebellion" would irritate the least militant Unionist, and disarming "the Orangemen" is much more ambiguous than the people who drew up this wish-list, realised. It was almost certainly the Order which put a brake on 'Orange' violence at this period. Asking Westminster to impose a Bill of Rights on Stormont, then scarper, shows that the authors were not being serious. An independent Stormont would have had to raise its own finances - unless this is a forerunner of Provisional thinking of the early 1980s: 'Get out of Ireland - but leave the cheque book behind you…'. The first act of an independent Stormont would be to undo any restrictions on Orange parades, then re-form its own military force. As for dealing with Dublin, its preferred method would probably have been machine gun emplacements, and lots of razor wire.

The people of the 26 County State made it clear on a number of occasions that they would change their Constitution when they felt like it and a united Ireland had to come on their terms. (And the 26 County State - despite wishful thinking by some - is a democracy.) If Westminster were paying for the upkeep of the Wee Six it would have to be represented at any negotiations on Irish unity. Insisting on the 'Irishness of (Ulster, presumably) Protestants' is an odd demand. What if they question it? Or come to the conclusion that their 'Irishness' is different from their neighbours? Would there be a return to the status quo ante, a re-drawing of the border, or would they have take what they get and like it? There is no indication that Jack Lynch read this 'Open Letter'.

Lynch appears (p 506) to be exonerated from any involvement in the 'Arms Crisis'. RJ writes that analysis of the role of the "Haughey / Blaney / Boland caucas" in Fianna Fáil in "helping to arm the Provisionals" is needed. However, the whole Oireachtas was involved in arming the Catholics in the North in the winter of 1969 / '70. Any chicanery involved was not on the part of the three men mentioned. The Government and Opposition were intimidated by the British Ambassador and Diplomatic Corps (see August 1969, Ireland's only appeal to the UN, Angela Clifford). Describing them as a 'caucas' is a bit dubious. Boland founded his own party Aontacht Éireann, which was not successful. As Neil Blaney put it, "I didn't leave Fianna Fáil, Fianna Fáil left me", and he remained TD for his Donegal constituency for a quarter of a century after the 'Arms Trial'. Haughey went on to irritate the Irish Left by becoming Taoiseach and making Ireland prosperous.

Seán McGouran; (Part One appeared in the October 2007 issue)


I am impressed by the amount of effort the reviewer has put in, and hope it may encourage some scholars to dig deeper. I will help them all I can, supplying access to the background notes and source material which are available via hotlinks in the e-version of the book. It is not clear if the reviewer has had access to this; I made him the offer via the IPR people, but I have no idea whether he took it up. I must say however he is quite wrong in suggesting that my main motivation was hostility to Fianna Fáil. I have been critical of it, and have aspired to develop various forms of more democratic bottom-up alteratives involving working people, on the whole without much success. A democratic form for an international movement of working people, aimed at achieving Marx's primary objective (democratic control over the capital investment process), remains elusive; the role of the State in the process needs a serious critical look. The co-operative movement needs to be re-invented. There is much on the agenda, and if my book encourages people to work on re-defining national and class political objectives, in such a way as to resolve issues without the use of the gun, then it will have been worth while writing it. RJ 23/02/2008.

Note added 16/07/2008: I have not yet seen the third part; perhaps it has been upstaged by current events, and this is understandable. If and when it arrives, I hope to be able to respond to it in an ongoing constructively critical spirit, as I have tried to up to now. RJ.

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