Century of Endeavour

Political Work in the 1950s

(c)Copyright Roy Johnston 2003, apart from the excerpts from the Desmond Greaves Journals, for which the copyright resides with Anthony Coughlan, with whom right of access and permission to publish any extracts must currently be negotiated, prior to their eventual deposition in the National Library of Ireland. Copyright relating to these Greaves abstracts belongs also to Roy Johnston, any extracts from which must be cleared by both parties.

Enquiries or comments to rjtechne@iol.ie.

The fifties for JJ was his last opportunity to influence things via the Seanad, and I have treated this in the 'public service' stream.

For RJ, before and after the period in France as an observer on the fringe of the French Left, there were periods in which he supported and continued to support the Irish Workers' League, which had been founded in 1948 by a confluence of the 1930s Communist Party residue with the ex-republican Left and the student Left. He tried however to break out of this strait-jacket, via contact with the Irish Democrat in London, and with the Plough group and various other groupings in Dublin.

The Irish Workers' League

After the end of 1950 (as described in the previous module) the editing of the IWL Education Bulletin was taken over from Peter Lalor in January 1951 by Marian Jeffares, who was a talented artist and CPGB activist recently married to George Jeffares, and come to live in Ireland. The Korean war was on, and the IWL was in total political isolation.

The January 1951 issue has an article by George Jeffares on 'Unity with the Republican Forces', and a review by the present writer of VR Williams' 'Principles of Agriculture'. GJ promotes the idea that the IRA is the strongest anti-imperialist force, and notes that the United Irishman had ceased publishing anti-Soviet articles, and that at Bodenstown they had vowed never to support an imperialist war, even in return for the ending of partition. In my review I noted the existence of a market for the English translation of Williams' book, and hailed it as a seminal work on the understanding of soil science. I managed to link some of the ideas with critical observations of agricultural practice in Kildare and Tipperary. Micheal O Riordain commented on the Congress of the Scottish division of the CPGB, which he had attended. It was clear that the Korean war situation had prevented serious attention being given to the question of Scottish independence, though this issue was given a somewhat grudging recognition. There was much padding with 'international movement' stuff, and the usual deference to Stalin.

The February 1951 issue leads off with a statement of the agenda for the development of a Marxist theory of the Irish revolution, to fill the post-Connolly vacuum, occupied sparsely by books like Brian O'Neill's 'War for the Land' and TA Jackson's 'Ireland Her Own'. The agenda she sets is broad-based and in some respects insightful, but is ill-adapted to the available IWL intellectual resources, and as usual dominated by the Korean war and US imperialism seen as the 'main enemy'; there is not even a nod in the direction of the Irish national question and Partition, despite the earlier effort of George Jeffares. There is wide-ranging negative response to the latter, mainly from ex-IRA people who had evolved to the Left (Stapleton, Mulready and others). There is visibly some confusion as to what the 'republican movement' is: does it include Fianna Fail and the also the IWL, both these bodies aspiring to the all-Ireland Republic? There is a message of solidarity from Gus Hall on behalf of the CPUSA.

From March 1951 onwards the Bulletin ceases to have a named editor, and shows signs of having been 'taken in hand' by the leadership; the format is improved, but it remains dominated by the 'international movement' and touches on Irish issues only rarely.

The March issue concludes with a definitive put-down of the earlier Jeffares article on 'Republican Forces', in the form of a Political Committee statement; the 'so-called IRA-Sinn Fein group' in the July 1950 issue having basically given an endorsement of Mulcahy's and MacBride's line'. Also 'Ireland's economic subservience to Britain fits in to the aims of American monopoly capitalism... the role allotted to Ireland in the Marshall Plan... favouring more up-to-date methods... supplying Britain with more cattle..'. There is editorial treatment of Lenin's 'Left-wing Communism'. Mick McCarthy reports from the Connolly Association annual conference, where the concern was about Ireland being dragged into active support for the Korean war, conscription of Irish in Britain, the Dutch in Northern Ireland in the NATO context. There was broad-based support from trade unions, trades councils and from the Anti-Partition League. There is an article by Dick Stinger, of earlier Promethean Society fame, by now back from Liverpool and starting up as an architect with a Dublin office. He talks sense about how procedurally to run an IWL branch meeting.

The April 1951 issue has an enthusiastic review of the 'British Road to Socialism', the CPGB programme, which calls for and end to the British Empire. The present writer, following Dick Stringer's article, contributes to the discussion on how politics interacts with IWL branch meetings, using as examples the experience of the student branch, which had addressed the issue of German rearmament, and got up a petition which has been signed by many ex-service and Jewish students. I was scathing about how the slogan 'criticism and self-criticism', picked up from the international movement literature, had been abused in the youth movement, causing embarrassment to new recruits. Micheal O Riordain picked up on unease about MacBride's US-oriented line expressed in the Cork Fianna Fail Convention.

The May-June 1951 issue treats editorially the Mother and Child Scheme, which it links with Partition and the role of the Hierarchy, quoting the Irish Times with approval: '..the Hierarchy's action would provide the North with a good argument for the continuation of Partition.... the Bishops might prefer a theocratic 26 counties to a democratic 32..'. A weekend school was planned for July, with Paul O'Higgins, Sean Nolan and Micheal O Riordain as tutors; texts included Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Connolly.

The July-August issue leads with an analysis of the elections, which had take place in May. Con Lehane for Clann na Poblachta claimed the 'workers' while Fiann Fail claimed to be the 'real' Labour Party. All mainstream policies were basically drift. The problems posed by the IWL's electoral experience are listed: the role of the Church, the IWL attitude to religion, civil liberties issues, the need to clarify the attitude to the national question, the method of approach to the people; the call was 'back to Connolly'. There is a somewhat doctrinaire article on 'Democracy and the State Machine' by one 'R Stag' who must have been Dick Stringer, now adopting the old pseudonym with which he had launched the Promethean Society some 6 years previous. P 'Carr' (Carmody, probably) has an extensive analysis of the Catholic Church and the working-class, attempting to distinguish the religious beliefs of ordinary workers from the ruling-class role of the Hierarchy. Pseudonyms are increasingly in vogue due to pressures on people in their work-places, a measure of the level of repression.

September-October 1951 issue shows concern with the problem of how to adapt the requirements of the 'international movement' (eg collecting mass signatures for the Stockholm and Berlin peace appeals) to the Irish environment, dominated by extreme hostility to anything to do with the USSR. There is an article by Paul Robeson, reprinted from Masses and Mainstream, arising from a conference held in Chicago which called for a cease-fire in Korea.

By this time the present writer was in France, and out of touch with the IWL, though marginally in touch with French politics, and with the Irish Democrat, to which he contributed occasional Paris letters. I continue however to abstract the IWL Education Bulletin series, as it helps set the stage for the political scene which I confronted on my return in September 1953.

January 1952 has 'Collective Leadership' by Gus Hall (CPUSA), 'The Struggle for Marxism' by 'Robert Stagg' (see above), 'Irish Students, their Problems and Perspectives' by Pat Robson, an evaluation of the Irish Workers' Voice the IWL's printed paper by 'S Ready' (Sean Mulready), 'Work Among Women' by Marian Jeffares, 'Unity and Independence' by 'P Carr' (Pat Carmody), 'Youth Work' by Sam Nolan, and 'The Soviet Union: an Inspiration' by Hilda Allberry. There is interspersed the usual Stalin quote. The dominant issue remains the Korean war, and the main emphasis is on the needs of the 'international movement'. Pat Robson was a stalwart of the student group, an ex-serviceman from England, with a CPGB background. He correctly identified the problem in terms of the domination of the universities by the imperial legacy, and graduate emigration, this being particularly acute in TCD. Pat Carmody correctly homed in on the need for working-class unity to include the Northern Protestant work-force in the movement for national unity and independence, and identified the split in the trade union movement as a serious additional obstacle.

The next issue is dated March-April and declares a policy change, making the Bulletin 'more a public organ', though the format remains the same. It begins with an Executive Committee Statement' on Trade Union Policy with 36 numbered paragraphs, the essence of which is the need to concentrate on trade-union unity, while keeping 'peace' in mind as the central issue. This is followed by an article by Micheal O Riordain on 'Our Industrial Work', one by Joe Deasy on 'The Battle of Ideas'; Jeff Palmer replies to Paul O'Higgins on the issue of how to handle things like the Stockholm Appeal. There is notice of three weekend schools, with tutors from the CPGB: Margot Heinemann, Jack Grahl and John Moss. Joe Deasy adds as an afterthought an apology for ignoring the six-county situation.

The May-June 1952 issue has an editorial signed by Patrick Carmody which places peace firmly at the top of the agenda, consequent on the recent Congress of the IWL. There is little point in 'national independence' in a situation dominated by the threat of a nuclear war. Occupation by the US in a world war situation is seen as a realistic possibility. There is also a perceptive analysis by Joe Deasy of the political ideas current in the Northern working-class, the majority of whom are supporters of the Unionist Party. The CPNI however has 4 members in the Executive of the Belfast Trades Council, and the Secretary is also a party member. Mairin Johnston writes (from Paris) on how to develop youth work, with the momentum derived from the 1951 Berlin Festival. Alfie Venencia promotes the need for local work to complement the trade union work agenda.

This series then comes to an end; it apparently continues in a less user-friendly foolscap format, up to mid 1955; there is also some duplicated material from the 1952 Congress. The latter consists of a series of analytical resolutions with numbered paragraphs: the main political resolution is concerned with peace and neutrality, and identifying demands capable of being taken up broadly by the labour movement; the organisational resolution seeks to extend the branch structure, and membership outside Dublin; there are resolution of youth, trade unions, on internal Party education, and on women's work. This was all well-intentioned and worthy, but in practice totally negatived by the image in the popular mind of the USSR as generated by the anti-Communism of the Church. The political impact on the mainstream was minimal.

I have also a copy of a memorandum for the Joint Council of the IWL and the CPNI covering in some detail, with statistics, agriculture, industry and trade in Northern Ireland. This was an attempt to get a grip on the effects of partition, though how it would be used strategically by an aspirant all-Ireland movement of the Left is unclear. There is also a document entitled 'Social Services in Ireland Today' dated October 1953; this refers to the 26 Counties, and illustrates the confusion over what is meant by 'Ireland'; it is however comprehensive and well researched. There is also draft material for an 'industrial development section', with extensive addenda in the handwriting of the present writer, and additional comments by Sean Mulready. I don't think this is worth reproducing, but seen in retrospect we were making a creditable attempt to address the problems of underdevelopment and massive unemployment, using the resources that had been built up during the war as 'external assets'. These arguments had been made decades earlier by JJ, though we were not aware of them.

The Ballyfermot Co-op

One result of Alfie Venencia's 'Local Work' as referenced above was the Ballyfermot Co-op. The new housing estate west of Inchicore was without retail outlet provision, and this was an opportunity to re-develop the 'consumer co-op' principle. This was set up, but crushed. Joe Deasy was Chairman. He recorded the episode in the November-December 1952 issue of the Workers' Voice, which was reprinted as a leaflet for mass distribution. This is worth reproducing; I have kept the original headers and emphases:

An Unscrupulous Campaign Exposed

The Truth About

Ballyfermot Co-op

Reprinted from "Irish Workers' Voice" for Nov-Dec, 1952.

The author of this article, MR. JOSEPH DEASY, was until recently chairman of the management committee of the Inchicore-Ballyfermot Co-operative Society. He has been prominent in the Labour movement of Dublin for many years. Between 1945-50 he was a Labour Councillor on the Dublin Corporation. In the 1948 Dail election he contested SW Dublin as a Labour candidates polling a good vote. The continued abandonment of Connolly's principles by the Labour leaders led him to decline nomination for the City Council elections In 1950. In 1951 he joined the Irish Workers' League.

Since the latter part of September, Ballyfermot and Inchicore has witnessed one of the most scandalous and unscrupulous campaigns ever waged against a people's movement. I refer to the onslaught against the Inchicore-Ballyfermot Co-operative Society, Dublin.

This Society was founded in 1946 and was based on the democratic principles of all co-operative movements. It was legally registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts early in 1947. It was then, as now, non-political and non-sectarian and included among its members and committee persons of different political and religious beliefs.

After a short time in existence the Society purchased a small shop in Inchicore. During two trading years of this shop's history dividends were distributed among the members on the usual co-op basis, the amount purchased by each member. In 1951, through hard work and initiative, the allocation of one of the rented shops in Ballyfermot was secured from the Housing Committee of the Dublin Corporation. The membership had in the meantime increased considerably and reached a figure approaching 400 paid-up members and 300 partially paid-up.

Carefully Managed

This Ballyfermot shop is a splendid, first-class grocery and provision stores. By careful and conscientious management it was well on the high road to success and promised to be a real asset to the people of the area. Then, after 12 months of such progress, reactionary forces, led, unfortunately, by the clergy, launched a campaign to wreck the Society.

The first blow was the disruption of a public open-air meeting, the sole purpose of which was the propagation of the co-operative idea. The attempted justification for this disruption was that some members of the Society's management committee wore associated with the Irish Workers' League. It has never been explained why such a dangerous and inflammable means of starting the attack was resorted to. If exception was taken to certain committee members there wore surely more just and mannerly means of indicating it. So outrageous was the tactic that even one of the three members of the management committee, who later played a treacherous part in the attack, expressed his indignation at the procedure.

Poisonous Leaflet

As chairman of that public meeting I adopted the only attitude which could be correct. I declared that the Co-op was non-sectarian and non-political and consequently refused to discuss the political beliefs of myself or any member of my committee. This attitude was, some days later, the subject Of a poisonous leaflet distributed in the area. Though printed, it did not bear the name of a printer.

Up to this point the attack had not adversely affected business, which, on the contrary, had somewhat increased. However, there were indications that powerful forces in the area threatened the very existence of the Society. At this stage we were led to believe that the clergy were prepared to withdrew their objections to the Society if the IWL members resigned their official positions. In spite of the injustice involved and of the years of toil and effort we had contributed to the Society, myself and the few other League members offered to resign.

Church Sermons

To the astonishment of the management committee, it was then learned that the resignation of League members was not enough. The objective had now become nothing less than the ruthless destruction of the Society. Another blow was then delivered. Denunciations were issued from the pulpits of the churches in Inchicore and Ballyfermot.

By now three members of the management committee had been prevailed upon to resign. The remaining members decided that an early general meeting was necessary at which the problems besetting the Society could be openly and frankly discussed, and a new committee elected.

After some very significant failures to secure a satisfactory hall in the area, a members' meeting was convened in a trade union hall in the city. It had been expected that those who were attacking the Society would welcome the holding of a members' meeting, at which they could either state their case or, if not members themselves, have it put forward for them. Instead, the area was widely canvassed and members were told they should not attend the general meeting. In spite of the boycott, a good number of members did attend. However, there can be little doubt that many members were influenced to stay away from the meeting, A really hypocritical feature of the affair was the actual presence of some of the inspired leaders of the boycott.

Attack Continued

From this meeting a new committee was elected, which excluded members of the IWL who declined nomination in order to remove all justification for the introduction of red herrings by those threatening the Society. In spite of these efforts to render the constitution of the management committee acceptable to the clergy, the attack continued and the new committee was also denounced from the pulpits.

As earlier indicated, this campaign produced a goodly crop of lies, slanders, and half-truths. Newspapers like the "Sunday Express", "Sunday Independent", "Sunday Press" and "'Catholic'(?) Standard" enlisted in the cause of the great smear. The latter paper indulged in the grossest and vilest distortion.

"Communist Plot"

The principal lie was the presentation of the Co-operative Society as a "Communist plot", a "cover" for other activities. Not a scrap of evidence was produced to support this slander. The mere presence of IWL members on the management committee was considered sufficient reason for broadcasting this poison. May I once more repudiate this vicious falsehood. As a matter of fact I, with others, was associated with the Co-op long before my membership of the IWL, which was not formed for years afterwards.

We became members of the management committee because at a certain time the Co-op needed workers urgently and critically who were prepared to sacrifice much time and energy to build and stabilise its future. We, among others, answered that need with only one object - the success of the Co-op. Our efforts and sincerity in this connection have been acknowledged on all sides, including ALL members of the former committee.

Another part of the smear technique has been the attempt to present the sale of papers in Ballyfermot as having a sinister connection with the Co-op. The fact is papers like the "IRISH WORKERS' VOICE" are sold all over Dublin and to argue that the inclusion of Ballyfermot involves the Co-op is sheer falsehood.

At the time of writing the issue is unresolved. Nevertheless, the truth of the above account is beyond challenge or contradiction.

Who Gains?

Finally, it should be understood that such an anti-progressive campaign is an attack not only against the Co-op, but against the most elementary rights of workers to form their own organisations. It is a warning to all trade unionists who take their rights for granted. Not alone does co-operation suffer, but so also does democracy - and religion itself. The only forces to gain will be the vested interests in Ballyfermot and elsewhere.

When the story is complete let us fervently hope that the people will still have their Co-op - OPEN TO ALL.


The next lot of stuff to hand includes some copies of a 'fortnightly letter to members', less well produced than the foregoing; the IWL is undergoing hard times. The earliest one to hand, corresponding to the approximate time of my return from France, is:

Issue #12 dated 15/10/53 which stoutly defends the IWL against the Standard campaign against 'un-Irish activities', then being orchestrated by the Editor Peadar Ward. It goes on to welcome the release of the prisoners who had been jailed for unemployed protests, and attacks the British for deposing Cheddi Jagan from the government of British Guiana, to which his party had been elected by a large majority. Helen Chenevix, the veteran feminist activist of the Women Workers Union had been controversing in the Irish Times in support of the singing of the Red Flag, which it seems had been objected to by some Sligo councillors. The controversy had developed into a free-for-all on socialist issues, and it was being drawn to the attention of IWL members as an opportunity to publicise ideas.

Issue 13 dated 11/11/53 opens by celebrating the 36th anniversary of the October Revolution in Russia; it goes on to recount how the Labour correspondent of the London Times Eric J Wigham had been to Ireland and had seen fit to interview Micheal O Riordain, along with other Labour leaders, and had shown surprise at the fact that the IWL alone in the Labour movement was producing a paper. The furore over the import of Soviet timber is noted. The Trades Council was taking up the unemployed issue. The opening meeting of the College Historical Society in TCD had given a platform to Lindsay Burnham, the deposed Guiana Minister for Education, along with James Dillon TD and Mr Creech-Jones, an ex Colonial Secretary. Burnham made a 'devastating case' for small-nation post-imperial independence, raising issues which Dillon and Creech-Jones ignored.

There is a gap then in the available series until: Issue #3 dated 17/02/54 comments on the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, criticising its pro-US foreign policy; it goes on to remark on the use of religion as a weapon in support of the capitalist class, counter-posing the perceived positive role of the Church in Poland, and mentions DN Pritt's visit to Kenya, exposing British oppression.

I have a Statement issued by the IWL/CPNI Joint Council dated 20/02/54 which analyses the economic relationships between Britain, the Republic and the North, and calls for working-class unity on primarily economic issues; the emphasis is on Anglo-US Imperialism as being the main threat, with peace and national liberation as being the main issues. There is projected a nebulous 'progressive alternative' to the present partitioned situation, without being specific. In other words, they fail to address the 'national question' in its specific Irish form, leaving this issue to the IRA by default.

I have also pre-conference preparatory documentation dated February 1954 which includes extensive economic analysis, showing the domination of the Irish economy by British industrial interests. Donal Nevin, later ICTU General Secretary, was at this time a civil servant, and was helpful behind the scenes to Sean Nolan in preparing economic material of this type. There is also analysis of the Trade Union split, and the issue of 'British-based Unions', seen by the Fianna Fail pseudo-Republicans as nominally 'foreign interference' but in fact a Labour-splitting device, was exposed as being a non-problem.

The 'letter to members' continues sporadically: there is one dated 6/04/54 which warns that Fine Gael will come back strengthened, increasing the danger of link-up with the US and NATO. There has been by-elections with declining Labour votes. The IWL proposed to contest a Dublin seat. Another dated 11/07/54 attacks the Health Bill of the new Fine Gael Minister TF O'Higgins, under the influence of the 'reactionary leadership of the Irish Medical Association'. The central issue is to defend the gains made in the 1953 Health Act under Fianna Fail which had introduced free maternity and infant services; these were perceived as being under threat. These gains had been made by FF with momentum originally generated by Dr Noel Browne.

I have some conference material from the 1954 Conference, which took place in October: The Executive Committee Report gives the names of the EC: *John Nolan, *Michael O'Riordain, *Sam Nolan, *Sean Mulready, *Patrick Carmody, *Joe Deasy, Mick McCarthy (subsequently of Embankment pub fame), Geoff Palmer, Sean O'Rourke, Hilda Allberry, *Paul O'Higgins, Packy Early, Sean Furlong (Brendan Behan;s half-brother), Mick Kearney. The latter two were conspicuous non-attenders. Those marked * were the 'political committee' the leading group. There were various other sub-committees dealing with trade union work, internal education, organisation (basically selling the paper), youth (dissolved for lack of available youth members), likewise women, cultural matters (organised a few lectures), finance. The education work was done mostly by Carmody and included week-end schools with tutors from the CPGB.

The Joint Council with the CPNI had met inaugurally in November 1952 and then on February 1953, November 1953, February 1954 and July 1954. Its primary concern had been economic, with some steps in the direction of a programme for the whole country.

The membership record shows horrendous decline: June 1952: 102; June 1953: 79; October 1954: 59; the breakdown is as follows: industrial workers 27, other waged and salaried workers 15, students 6, housewives 6, self-employed 4, unemployed 1. Losses were due mostly to lapses (46) and emigration (17).

I probably was at this conference, though I have no recollection of it. I would have been concerned to consolidate my working situation on return from France. The foregoing material would have been produced under the pressures of the then developing Standard anti-Communist witch-hunting campaign, which was clearly having the effect of driving the IWL practically underground. The stimulus for the following new series probably was the beginning of the IRA campaign with the arms raids at Armagh and Omagh.

I have a copy of the Rules as adopted by the EC in October 1954. Note that they were not specified as being adopted by the Conference, which indicates the type of top-down Stalinist political culture, though in this case it would be hard to fault the actual rules. The Stalinist culture actually asserted itself via unwritten procedures, such as the practice of the EC nominating its successor, with rubber-stamp voting. The aims were (a) to establish in Ireland a Socialist society... based on the public ownership of the means of production and exchange (b) to ensure that a united Irish working-class led the movement for unity and independence and (c) to develop a militant Labour movement based on the Socialist principles of Connolly and Larkin. It goes on to define membership, its rights and duties, and to define a structure, with a conference at least once every 3 years, electing an executive committee.

I had hoped to scan the above in, but the quality is not good. The above summary conveys the essentials. It is worth remarking that 'public ownership' is left undefined, and the implication, from Soviet practice, is that the central State is involved. This was of course the fatal flaw in the case of the USSR, where the Party in fact became a sort of collective monopoly capitalist owner of the State.

The Issue #1 (New Series) (undated, but circa December 1954 from internal evidence) blames the lack of lead by the Labour party for not enthusing the youth and leaving them open to attraction by the IRA. It goes on to compare the IRA to the Narodniki in the history of the Russian Revolution, and to call for working-class unity rather than sectarian wars: '...in the south there are those who would replace the word 'Irishman' with 'Catholic' and who would attempt to smother the great liberal tradition of the past leaders.... the IRA could be responsible for the unleashing in Northern Ireland of a flood of sectarianism..'. The aspiration was to achieve a united all-Ireland working class including the Protestant workers of Belfast, and this aspiration was clearly threatened by the IRA campaign. The key text for the education of Party members was the 'History of the CPSU(B)' which was subsequently attributed to Stalin.

Issue #2 is dated 7/02/55; it touches on the Malenkov resignation, castigating the capitalist press for not publishing the text of his letter. It calls for a wages campaign, and draws attention to the opening of the James Connolly Library in 37 Pembroke Road. It is signed by Micheal O Riordain.

I have another three 'political letters' to members from MO'R, dated 'April 1955, 9/06/55 and 28/07/55; these have no issue numbers, so they must have become occasional.

The first deals with the Bandung Conference of Asian and African countries, welcoming it, and the extent of its Press coverage in Ireland. They tried unsuccessfully to get Sean O'Casey to come over for the opening of the Bishop's Bonfire. Joe Cole won a short story competition in the magazine 'World Youth'. Radio Moscow schedules are promoted. The builders providers strike continues.

The second deals with one of the famous 'Kilkenny Debates' in the series organised by Hubert Butler; it was linked with the 'Tostal' cultural festival concept. The topic was 'The Small Nation in the Atomic Age' and speakers were Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, Captain Liddel-Harte, Declan Costello, Noel Brown and General Dorman O'Gowan. It was broadcast on Radio Eireann, and members were urged to watch for the repeat. O'Gowan and Browne were assessed positively, while Skeff was seen as negative. Costello promoted US policies, while Lidell-Harte was objective.

Note on Herbert Butler, inserted July 2004 (RJ):

I attended a celebration in Kilkenny on the occasion of Hubert Butler's centenary. He had been a hero of the Left in the 1950s, on account of the way he had attempted to expose the role of Archbishop Stepinac as a supporter of the Pavelich policy of forced conversions of Greek Orthodox to Roman Catholicism in Croatia under the Nazis, a process which amounted to genocide, in that the alternative was death. This was based on his 1947 analysis of contemporary publications; he was fluent in Serbo-Croat, having worked in Yugoslavia before the war. For this he had been vilified by the media in Ireland, and ostracised on his home ground. At the centenary event, the Mayor of Kilkenny formally apologised. For an account of Butler's analysis of the role of Stepinac, see Chris Agee, the Stepinac File, Irish Pages, autumn/winter 2002/2003, p143ff.

The letter goes on to mention the local elections; they are not participating. The Sinn Fein victories in Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh S-Tyrone are seen as putting new life into the nationalist youth. The CPNI is said to be still working on its policy formation. It concludes by drawing attention to the 'punishment in schools' campaign then beginning.

The third opens with a report of a visit to the USSR by some educationalists to from Northern Ireland, accompanied by Frank Edwards, a teacher from Dublin. The latter ran, more or less single-handed, the Ireland-USSR Society (earlier, from about 1946, the 'Irish-Soviet Friendship Society') for many decades. He was an Spanish Civil War International Brigade veteran, and a Party member; he attempted however to distance the questions of diplomatic, trade and cultural links with the USSR from association with the Party, and in this to some extent he was successful. It continues with a mention of the barmen's strike, mentions an O'Casey support letter to a US progressive artists group, calls for members to write to local papers, defends the roles of the Catholic Church in Poland and China, both supporting the Government.

One can get the flavour of the degree of isolation of the Left in the 1950s from these newsletters. The present writer had more or less given up on the IWL as providing a creative political forum, and was searching around, encountering things like the 1913 Club (with Owen Dudley Edwards and others), and later the Plough, which was an attempt to develop a broad-left paper, edited by Maisie McConnell, and supported by a group of ex-supporters of Noel Brown, whom he had alienated. A key supporter was May Keating, Justin's mother; Justin at this time was lying low in the hopes of getting a job in the Veterinary College.

[I reserve space here to develop this further if and when I get my papers sorted out. In the meantime I am open to answer queries as best I can. RJ]

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Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999