Century of Endeavour

Political Work in the 60s (JJ)

(c) Roy Johnston 2003

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

I begin by detailing my father's political swan-song period; he had been out of the Seanad for some time, and his influence in TCD was marginal, so he did his best to convey ideas to the world, by whatever channel happened to be open to him. I then continue, in a separate module, with an overview of my own political work, which in the period 1961-63 was in London with the Connolly Association, and then till the end of the decade initially with the Wolfe Tone Society, and then with Sinn Fein, and the attempted IRA politicisation led by Cathal Goulding.

Sunday Press article by JJ on the Common Market

This article, entitled 'The Common Market and the Communist Menace', appeared on December 23 1962 in the Sunday Press. I remember at the time being put off by the use of the cold war term 'communist menace' but it is clear he was primarily using it with the connotation 'heavy-handed State intervention in the free market'. RJ November 2000.

At first sight it is somewhat surprising that six European nations who were quite recently involved as aggressors and victims, in the Second World War, should suddenly come together and plan, not only a progressive adoption of mutual free trade but & degree of political union in the not too distant future which implies a progressive mutual surrender of sovereignty to the political institutions of the proposed union.

Tho economic advantages of international free trade are a hackneyed theme of text-books on economics. In recent decades the powers that be, in most neutral States, have been singularly unwilling to be convinced of these advantages. One would like to believe that they have at length been convinced by the eloquent reasoning of the professional economists, and that the world, under the leadership of the great Western European nations, is about to embark on a series of experiments which will broaden into genuine international free trade - in agricultural as well as non-agricultural products, and in services as well as commodities. But one cannot help pondering to what extent the movement towards economic and political integration in Western Europe has been inspired by fear of a common enemy - the menace of Communism.

Undoubtedly the menace of Communism is very great, and in any real show-down between East and West there is no doubt on which side would be the sympathies of those of us, on this side of the curtain, who managed to survive radioactive sickness. What I propose to do in this article in to examine certain aspects of the communist menace which are implicit in the present world situation and are generally overlooked. Before doing so, however, I would like to make it quite clear (as I hope I did in my "Why Ireland Needs the Common Market") that in present world and Irish circumstances our interest is to join the EEC on the best terms we can obtain, preferably at the same time as the United Kingdom. If the latter's application is unsuccessful it might still be in her interest to join, but only if certain very important guarantees were forthcoming with respect to the future conditions of Anglo-Irish trade.

The economic considerations which favour such a policy are of primary importance. At present our agricultural economy is part of an underprivileged capitalist half-world which is being ruinously exploited as an indirect but unforeseen result of the domestic agricultural policies practised by the mature industrial economies. We are lucky in our geographical situation as we are the only important agricultural surplus exporting economy which may hope to climb into an ark of at least temporary refuge.

But our transfer from an underprivileged to a privileged zone of safety will only be beneficial from the point of view of the excluded agricultural economies if the policy of the expanded EEC genuinely favours a rapid growth of international commerce as between all agricultural economies and the mature industrial economies that will dominate the EEC.

Our immediate concern is with our own short term interests. The long term effect of future EEC policy concerns the world as a whole and if, as is possible, it increases rather than diminishes a hitherto unnoticed aspect of the communist menace, we must be concerned with that too. It is impossible at this stage to foresee the future development of EEC policy but some indications of it which are already manifest give rise to a certain degree of misgiving.

The Western world, including USA, has been much impressed by the dynamic character of the economies now united in the EEC. In particular the rapid recovery of Western Germany has aroused envy as well as admiration. Perhaps that recovery is not so much due to increasing freedom of trade with her five partners as to the fact that a great nation with ample material resources, liberated by defeat for few precious years from the burden of armaments, was bound to achieve spectacular recovery anyhow. By the same token it could be argued that if only the major nations of the world, communist and non-communist could simultaneously and without serious loss of life sustain a crushing military defeat, then the world as a whole, freed from the burden of armaments, would be within measurable distance of achieving an earthly Utopia!

Various degrees of unification are possible as between different nations. At one extreme is an organisation like the British Commonwealth of Nations which a member can depart from without saying "by your leave" and no questions asked. At the opposite extreme is a Federal Constitution like that of the USA. About a hundred year ago the Southern States of USA discovered that they had no legal way of departing from Federal Union.

Some degree of political unification is implicit, if not yet fully specified, in the Treaty of Rome. It does not follow that a member wishing to depart will meet the fate of the Southern States of the USA, but it is a sinister fact that there is no legal provision for the renunciation of the Treaty obligation once a nation has become a member. Consequently, like matrimony, the EEC bond should not be lightly undertaken.

Like ourselves the UK is more interested in the economic promise than in the political ideals of the EEC. It is argued that, once a member, she will be able to influence its political development in desirable directions which do not involve too serious a loss of national sovereignty. It is probable that our influence too, which, though light, would probably much exceed our relative numerical importance, and would be exercised in the same general direction. Already our influence in UNO has this general character.

It is important that we should not lose in the EEC the moral status which, under Mr Aiken's leadership, we have attained in UNO. Mr Aiken has eloquently argued in favour of disengagement and the establishment of a demilitarised zone in Central Europe (4/12/62). Only thus can the whole of Germany be peacefully united and the insoluble Berlin problem finally liquidated.

Any serious advance of the movement for political unification, so long as eastern Germany is beyond the curtain, could only serve to harden the present unnatural frontier, and make a Third World War, with all its horrors, gradually seem a preferable alternative to an increasingly intolerable central European situation. The virtual certainty of a Third World War would be too high a price to pay for political unification under present conditions.

Even the economic policy hitherto practised by the EEC may be contributing to the growth in one aspect of the Communist menace. The desirability of peaceful co-existence as between the capitalist and the communist half-worlds is increasingly recognised. Of even more immediate importance to the non-communist world is the establishment of tolerable conditions of coexistence as between the half-starved millions in the underdeveloped economies of Asia, Africa and South America and the relatively well-fed millions who are privileged to live in the mature industrial economies of Western Europe and North America.

There in a similar problem of comfortable co-existence as between the partly-developed but underprivileged agricultural economies of the White Commonwealth countries overseas and the mature industrial economies of Western Europe with whom they do a vital but languishing trade. Even the great USA herself finds her economy waterlogged by reason of the declining outlets for her agricultural exports to the UK and the EEC countries. This is partly the result of her own too liberal price supports agricultural policies, but also the result of the increasing agricultural self-sufficiency of these countries, which in turn has been brought about by price policies which violate the first principles of capitalist economics. These matters are discussed at some length in "Why Ireland Needs the Common Market" and in this article it is enough to say that unless the problem of equitable co-existence as between capitalist economies, developed or otherwise, can be solved, and in particular all agricultural surplus exporting countries given a square deal in their commerce with mature industrial economies, the capitalist half-world will be in poor shape to confront the communist menace from any source, and more and more of the undeveloped and developing economies will be compelled to establish more intimate commercial relations with the communist half world.

To some undeveloped economies which are on the verge of starvation the communist solution of even their internal economic problems may seem increasingly attractive.

In this connection it is significant that while the USA has in store about 20 million tons of wheat which she cannot sell abroad on ordinary commercial terms, Australia has lately sold substantial quantities of wheat to Red China, and Canada has been tempted to do the same.

It was a favourite saying of the great George Russell that individuals and nations tend to become like those they hate. One of the most sinister development in the agricultural policies of mature capitalist economies is the deliberate departure from the fundamentals of the free market economy in favour of a communist technique by which prices are determined by political authority without regard to ultimate consumer demand and with no advertance to (regard for) consequent international repercussions and injustices. The outstanding example is, of course, British "deficiency" payments but the practice in USA and the EEC countries, though different in form is essentially similar in the sense that it exalts political authority and distorts even long term economic trends and price levels.

Elsewhere I have argued that this harbouring of an incompatible element in capitalist economies has a corrosive effect which may destroy the capitalist economies in question. There is a story told about a Spartan boy who hid a wolf in his bosom and was too proud to let it go. The communist wolf which is our greatest danger is the one which is already gnawing at the vitals of mature industrial economies in the sense indicated.

To a certain limited extent we too fix prices, eg for butter and export bacon, by political authority, but in a world in which free trade in agricultural produce was a genuine reality world prices of food would rise, and we would gladly abandon the practice. Like the character in a well known play we are "the victim of circumstance".

The USA in her own agricultural policies has embodied this communist principle of fixing prices by political authority. An unofficial but authoritative "Committee for Economic Development" in the USA has recently published an "Adaptive Program for Agriculture" in which it is urged that agricultural prices should be scaled down to the level which in the course of five years might be expected to eliminate the production of unsaleable surpluses. Thus prices similar to the long term market trend would be restored and the reality of a free market gradually allowed to operate. To some extent the USA in her commerce with Europe has been "hoist with her own petard". She would like to sell more grain to Europe but European countries use the abnormalities of USA agricultural price as an excuse for maintaining their own import restrictions and price abnormalities. The policy it recommends would promote the liberalisation of world agricultural trade. I quote (italics in the original):

"Liberalisation of agricultural trade, now blocked chiefly by the use of restrictive quotas in Europe, should be a cardinal point of United States trade policy. There is a danger that the agricultural policy of the European Economic Community (the Common Market) will be such as to promote agricultural self-sufficiency in Europe. This would be a mistake from the point of view of the efficiency of the entire free world. Europe should accept, as a fundamental decision in the course of its current economic integration, the idea that there is an advantage to Europe in the increased use of American farm goods, and the decreased use of high-cost European farm products."

Adding only, after "American farm goods", "and also of Irish farm products", I would not agree more.

The world was then less aware of issues such as pesticide residues arising from chemical-dominated agriculture than it is now, and genetic engineering was unknown, though traditional crop-breeding tended to favour the needs of industrialised agriculture. If JJ was writing today, I think he would distinguish sharply the products of US agriculture from those of the developing countries. RJ November 2000.

Irish Press Articles by JJ: 'Freedom from Hunger'

There was a series of articles by JJ in the Irish Press which began on April 19 1963. The first exists as newsprint, and I have scanned it in. The remaining three are somewhat fuzzy carbon copies, and they are more difficult to scan. I have abstracted them where the full text is not available.

I. Freedom from Hunger and Humbug
EVERYONE knows that the world's population now exceeds 3,000 million and that more than half of them - especially in the undeveloped countries - are suffering from malnutrition or positive famine. Most people are also aware that post-war agricultural policies in the developed countries have built up surpluses of basic foodstuffs - 20 million tons of wheat in the US alone - which cannot be sold on ordinary commercial terms because human need is one thing and economic demand is quite a different matter.

It seems a simple solution to transfer, by an act of international charity, the contents of the bursting granaries of North America to the larders and kitchens of the starving populations in the undeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and South America. But the solution is not as simple as it appears to be on the surface.

For one thing, even if some magic formula could be devised which would enable these surpluses to be transferred, they would only feed the hungry for perhaps three months and at the end of that time the problem would be as acute as ever, with no bountiful surpluses available to transfer.

Another aspect of the matter is that the financial problem involved is insoluble within the present framework of capitalist ideology in the developed world. USA agricultural surpluses are costing the taxpayer 5,000 million dollars to produce and 1000 million dollars a year to store.

Is the USA to go on paying 50,000 dollars a year for "defence" and give away an additional 5,000 million dollars a year in international charity?

Actually the US government has been most generous in this matter and regularly gives away about 2,000 million dollars in external aid - not all of it with strings attached. But, political human nature being what it is, it is not practical politics to expect the American taxpayer to treble his annual external donation, and the British balance of payments being what it is, it is not possible to expect a substantial increase of external aid from that quarter either.

The EEC countries - notably France - have shown some awareness of the problem and of the human obligation implied, but in words that have not yet matured into adequate deeds or have been contradicted by the wrong deeds. A former secretary of GATT, in a recent issue of Lloyd's Bank Review, has pointed out that the purchasing power of the undeveloped countries in external markets would need to be increased by 15,000 million dollars a year, if the minimum standard laid down by UNO for their progressive improvement in the next few years is to be made possible of attainment.

In his view international charity will fall far short of making 15,000 million dollars a year annually available for this purpose. The only hope -- and it is a faint one -- is an expansion of economic demand in the developed countries for the actual and potential products of the undeveloped countries (including the simpler products of nascent industries).

International charity must make an initial contribution by way of an appropriate "nest egg" but a substantial proportion of that target figure of 15,000 million dollars of external purchasing power a year must come about as a result of the willingness of developed countries to buy products which suitable aid for development will enable the undeveloped countries to produce. The fundamental need is "trade not aid".

The post-war increase of international trade has been most impressive but it has mainly taken the form of an increase of trade between developed economies. Trade between the developed and undeveloped economies has languished and the prices of food and raw materials have not shared in the general increase of prices since 1950 but have displayed a stable and sometimes downward trend.

There are sinister indications that post-war international trade may cease to expand and may even suffer a disastrous reduction unless trade with the developing countries can be rapidly and drastically expanded on a sound and ultimately self-liquidating basis.

Charity like patriotism is not enough and there are certain forms of patriotism which may prove an obstacle to a sound economic solution. In some Western European countries imports of cotton textiles from Hong Kong are looked on askance and liable to quota limitations as well as import duties. The President of Pakistan took part in the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference of September 1962, and is on record as saying "there is no justification for immediate application of the common external tariff to our exports to the United Kingdom". Apparently that would have been one probable result of the success of the UK application to join the EEC.

Much of Pakistan's land suffers from "water-logging and salinity". An expert US commission recommended a solution of the problem which, when solved, would double the present agricultural output of Pakistan. This is a country where the average income per head is about 20, compared with 200 in Ireland and 800 in the USA. The Initial capital cost for each million acres treated would be 55 million dollars.

Such a scheme, initiated by external finance, would have as an immediate result a probable demand for heavy engineering equipment (perhaps relieving unemployment in Northern England). The local labourers employed would get higher incomes and would buy more food at normal commercial prices. The subsequent increase in the national wealth would make the servicing of an external loan no net burden --- even if no element of international charity was involved, provided that Pakistan exports found an open market in developed countries.

This is the kind of approach to the solution of the joint problem of world hunger and industrial unemployment (now looming in the developed countries) which eliminates the element of humbug from a common approach to the hunger problem, but of course, there is much more to it than can be expressed in a brief article.

II. Freedom from Hunger - the Ideological Background
In this second article, JJ estimates the global defence budget as some 50B per annum, and he explores what alternative uses could be made of this. He also castigates the developed world for using heavy State intervention to stimulate agricultural production in the mature economies, creating problems of export, import, distribution, relative prices and incomes which are insoluble within the accepted capitalist framework.

"The unsaleable agricultural surpluses of the developed capitalist world are a by-product of the decision to stimulate production at the expense of the taxpayer and consumer. This material could otherwise be imported from low-cost producing countries like Ireland, New Zealand and South America...."

"...The agricultural scarcities in the communist world are a consequence of a State decision to fix prices in such a way as to use agriculture to subsidies the development of heavy industry..."

"Thus capitalist countries have 'communistically' (ie by heavy State intervention) stimulated high-cost agricultural production, and communist countries have communistically stimulated high-cost industrial production, and in effect they have conspired to impoverish the world..".

III. Freedom from Hunger - The Capitalist Solution.
No-one now thinks et France, Germany or the USA as undeveloped economies. About 100 Years age they were indeed undeveloped economies and they owed their development in the first instance to the overspill of capitalist enterprise, financial and technical, from Britain - then the workshop of the world and the only country that mattered industrially an financially.

About the middle of the nineteenth century Britain realised that she could not hope to feed her rapidly growing population on the produce of her own fields alone. The Irish famine of 1845-6 was the excuse but not the fundamental cause of the sudden decision to reverse the policy of the Corn Laws and allow tree import of cheap food from abroad - the cheaper the better.

As Mrs Woodham Smith has pointed out the decision to adopt this policy at this time was a very negative contribution to the solution of the desperate human problem of the Irish famine. This is not the place to discuss the complicated issues involved. Admitting that the Irish economy sustained a shock by the inopportune adoption of agricultural Free Trade, we in this generation have reason to believe that our economy also sustained a shock when Britain departed from agricultural Free Trade in 1932 and continued to intensify the new policy in the present post-war era.

There is in fact a kind of Siamese Twin relation between Britain and our whole Island, and while nothing that parliaments can do in Dublin or Belfast can seriously upset the economy of the larger island, the action of Parliament in Westminster can seriously disorder the economies of both areas in our divided Island. We are not of course unique in that respect The economics of New Zealand and other distant countries are sensitive to developments of British policy which may inadvertently do them serious injury.

However, from a world point of view the adoption of Free Trade by the United Kingdom in the middle of the nineteenth century was an event of outstanding importance. The railways and coal-mines of France and Germany were financed and developed in the first instance by British finance and enterprise.

Later in the century a similar service was performed for the USA. British and Western European capital was exported to finance the making of the transcontinental railway system. Other important elements in the new industrial infrastructure of both Americas were similarly financed by European Investors some of whom indeed occasionally burnt their fingers in the process.. In general North America at least was initially developed on a sound economic basis by foreign capital and the economic basis was sound, and the investments self-liquidating precisely because the British market was freely open to increasing exports of American food and raw materials, and later industrial products. The initial injection of foreign capital was a desirable form of "external aid" but the secret of its permanent success was "Trade not aid".

The capital invested abroad by Britain and other dynamic European countries was in the first instance a means of payment for the export of capital goods - the typical products of European heavy industry. The rapid development of the economy of the USA began in the 1870s when the aftermath of the civil war had been liquidated. It was only then that the full impact of this growing international trade began to affect the British and also the Irish agricultural economics.

The opening up of the prairie provinces by transcontinental railways led to a vast increase in the import of wheat to these islands at prices with which the British and Irish farmer could not compete. There was also a growing import of Indian corn and meal, in Britain mainly for animal feed, but in Ireland it became an important element in the diet of an impoverished people as well. This was one of the permanent legacies of the famine years.

Prom about 1873 till 1896 there was a prolonged monetary depression, due to a relative scarcity of gold, and this intensified the problem of agricultural adjustment in both our islands. In Ireland the problem was made more acute by reason of an intolerable land system which systematically robbed the tenant until its worst features were eliminated by the 'three Fs' act of 1881.

Nevertheless agriculture in both islands made the necessary adjustments however painful the process. The standard of living of the British working class was steadily rising and every increase in their economic welfare meant a relative increase in the demand for the high protein animal products which Irish agriculture (even more than British) was climatically otherwise ideally fitted to supply. Apart from imported wheat, which was primarily for human consumption, cheap imported cereals became more and more the raw material basis for the production of high class breakfast table animal products like eggs and bacon. On small farms as well as large, farmers had the necessary economic incentives (so long as the relative prices of raw materials and finished products were favourable) to increase the output of animal products.

The British market was freely open to all importers and, apart from transport costs, the British farmer had no advantage that the Irish (or Danish) farmer did not share. In view of the increasing dependence of the British population on imported food, and the changing pattern of working class consumption, which increased the demand for animal products, there seemed no limit to the possible increase in the economic production of the products suited to our agriculture.

The capitalist ideology which reigned supreme up to the outbreak of the first World War seemed to be capable, if only in a haphazard way, of solving the problem of developing undeveloped economies abroad and providing hungry people everywhere with a more ample and varied diet.

After two World Wars, the economic lessons of which have been imperfectly learnt, we are fated with a different situation now both nationally and internationally. The artificial stimulation of Britain's own agricultural output has increased it by some 70%, and British agriculture which used to contribute only about a third of British food consumption, now contributes more than half.

Foreign exporter& to the British market must accept so called "world prices" which are depressed because the quantity of their exports has not diminished whereas the absorptive capacity of that market has shrunk considerably. The standard of living of the British industrial worker continues to rise but whereas his increasing appetite for drink, tobacco, bingo and betting is reflected in statistics, the "income elasticity" of his demand for more or better quality food approximates to zero.

In the heyday of capitalist ideology the development of overseas undeveloped economies led to an increase in the import to Britain of food and raw materials. These were freely absorbed and British agriculture made the necessary adjustments. British agriculture is now a "sacred cow" and the burden of all necessary adjustments is thrown on the weaker external economies which must rely for international solvency on the possibility of exporting food and raw materials to Britain and other mature economies.

Thus the capitalist ideology which worked reasonably well in the nineteenth century in its international aspect is no longer internationally viable - because some of its essential features have been abandoned by the major industrial economics which are its alleged champions.

Freedom from Hunger - a Peaceful Co-existence Solution?
In this final article JJ compared the current situation with that in the 19th century, when the whole world was capitalist, but there were 'many weeds in the capitalist garden'. He tried to draw some comfort from the divisions which were then appearing within the communist world (ie between the USSR and China) and within the capitalist world (Europe vs the US).

"If the votaries of the rival ideologies are to live peaceably together in the real world it is inevitable that some interchange of ideas and practices should take place. The Cold War is subtly changing its character and is no longer merely a conflict of rival ideologies..".

"The ultimate solution of the 'Freedom from Hunger' problem demands not 'charity' in the narrow sense, but the charity implicit in the recent Papal Encyclical which transcends ideological as well as theological differences, and unties the hole world in a brotherhood of love and mutual service."

(Thus did John XXIII impinge on at least one Ulster Protestant! RJ November 2000.)

The 1916-1966 commemoration

There is on record in the Wolfe Tone Society archive a copy of a publication by the undergraduate TCD Publishing Co entitled 1916-1966, undated apart from this title. It contains reflective articles by 17 people, including Owen Sheehy-Skeffington (twice), John Horgan, Sean O Faolain, Anthony Coughlan, Bruce Arnold, Michael McInerney, Mary MacSwiney, Maire Comerford, Martin Donoghue, GC Duggan, Sir Graham Larmor and the present writer. The initiative for this seems to have come from Oliver Snoddy (Padraig O Snodaigh) and the National Museum. Anthony Coughlan wrote about the social services, Skeffington on the Church and State question, Sir Graham Larmor on cross-border trade (he was a colleague of JJ in the Irish Association). I used the occasion to outline my then vision for how I thought the republican movement might develop into a national liberation movement of a new type. I was, in effect, responding to the anti-Communist scare which had been propagated by the Irish Independent. I reproduce this here under its original short title 'Ahead'; it is a good summary of my then political position.

The lead-in to the article was a photo of me, at the age of 36, with a caption after my name giving a short CV, and noting that I regarded the 'national question' as an 'allocation of resources problem': who decides, and in whose interests?

The views expressed here are personal and candid. The Wolfe Tone Society, with which I am associated, has established itself as a means of working out new approaches to the question of national unity and independence. By refraining from didacticism and stressing practical objectives it has succeeded in helping the learning process which the Republican Movement is undergoing at present.

No one movement, programme, or philosophy has all the answers. What follows is an attempt to point the way to how to build a national liberation movement of a new type, making use of elements already in existence and drawing on historical experience.

Firstly, why "national liberation"? Are we not free? The short answer is that until we can control the economic forces we are still in chains. If between ourselves and a major imperialist power there is free movement of capital, labour and goods, we, as a nation, are not in control of the economic forces. We will be economically free as a nation when we can control in the national interest the re-investment of the national economic surplus, having regard to the short-term and long-term needs of the common people. This we are not doing now: instead our rulers are auctioning off our assets and passing control more and more to London boardrooms. When the rate of sell-out declines, as it is doing now despite the best efforts of the Government, we get a "balance of payments crisis."

To assume control on a 26-county basis would be difficult. On a 32-county basis from the economic point of view it would be easier: the necessary control over movement of capital could be obtained without the need for partitioning the banking system and watching a long land-frontier. The unity of the country is therefore a vital and necessary step towards independence.

The main features of the 32-county Republic have been sketched tentatively in a document drafted by a sub-committee set up by the Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle which included some Wolfe Tone Society members. The draft was an expansion of points submitted by the Ard Comhairle. This has not yet been published in full, as it is still under discussion. However, the main features of it have been accepted and the problem is one of presentation and integration into an immediate practical programme.

If a label is needed, I prefer to use "Connolly social-republicanism." The term 'socialist' has been debased in European usage, being so imprecise as to be virtually meaningless. The Connolly approach is precise, well worked out; it lacks the negative elements (overtones of alien interference, lack of democratic tradition) which have bedevilled European Marxism. There is no need for us to go abroad for our revolutionary theory. Ireland is the classical underdeveloped country: our experience as a nation could hardly be richer. Let us lean on it, evaluate it critically, compare with the experience of other nations and draw our own conclusions.

Having affixed the label, let us examine the bottle. At this distance from the goal it would be absurd to be too detailed (e.g. raise the old-age pensions to 5-12-6, etc.) but we can discuss certain well-defined features.

(1) All major national assets owned within the nation. This implies nationalisation of at least some foreign-owned enterprises. We have enough external assets to spare to pay fair compensation. Any foreign-owned enterprise which worked in with the national goals, contributed to, the national level of technology and had a progressive policy with regard to employment of Irish staff would be favourably treated.

(2) The maximum democracy in economics. This means the development of co-operative ownership of small and medium enterprises and the participation of the workers in the control of large state-owned industries, possibly via their unions. Many small private firms would survive, strengthened by co-operative marketing and purchasing organisations. The line of demarcation between private and state would depend on the degree of involvement with foreign capital. A firm which had "sold out" would be nationalised, an independent one would not.

(3) Instead of one large firm dominating an industry and forcing the closure of smaller competitors, giving rise to concentration of industry and population, the rule of the game would be for the dominant (state) firm to bring the smaller firms co-operatively under its umbrella (common research and development labs, rationalisation of transport, etc) and by intelligent direction of investment and specialisation to make an integrated industrial complex spread out in space. Concentration only pays under capitalism, where the taxpayer and the worker foot the re-housing bill. Thus it would probably turn out to be sound economics to put an absolute stop to the expansion of Dublin if the social costs of abandoning houses in the West and building new ones in Dublin were counted.

(4) Development of the Belfast engineering industry in such a way as to supply the plant for industrialising the whole country. Specialise towards agricultural needs: food processing and fertiliser production involve advanced engineering and sophisticated control equipment. This is likely to be an expanding export field also.

(5) Banking and insurance would be nationalised or co-operative. State finance would be based on progressive taxation; incomes would be egalitarian but not to the extent of destroying incentive.

(6) Volume of credit, interest rate, etc, would be used as planning instruments. Credit would be allowed to expand for as long as resources remained underutilised. Trade and movement of capital would be subject to control. The currency would be independent and would be related to sterling in such a way as to equalise the balance of payments, with an annual adjustment based on the previous years trade figures. An initial devaluation would make exports highly competitive and imports dear, thus encouraging the maximum production of manufactured goods at home. (The present crippling connection between volume of credit and balance of payments is the way in which rigid sterling parity exercises its adverse effect. There are conflicting signals: "unemployed resources" suggest to expand credit; "balance of payments" imposes a contraction. Domination of decision-making by pure financial interests wins).

(7) Given full employment and an expanding economy, a generous social service system in the interests of the common people presents no problem. We could certainly afford to improve on the British standard if we had the proper ratio of the age-groups at home and at work, instead of nearly all children and old people.

(8) In agriculture the land would be individually owned but co-operative marketing, purchasing and some co-operative productive enterprises would exist. There would be a maximum farm size. Some experimental estates might be run as fully co-operative enterprises, possibly by returned emigrant farmers' sons, experimentally. Agriculture does not lend itself to industrialisation easily, as countries which have tried to force the pace have found to their cost.

(9) Education would be free up to 16 or 17; university entrance would be on merit alone. Education would receive priority over (for example) road widening. (All the conventional priorities would be looked at hard).

(10) The national language would be widely and increasingly spoken, and would support a flourishing literature. There would be generous subsidies for the arts. (The idea of a national language is neither obscurantist nor fanatical. Trinity radicals spoil their potential support in the nation at large by opposing it. An increasing number of Dublin intellectuals of the highest calibre are fluent in it. Cliche-ridden Civil Service Irish is on its way out. When the language is widespread and English has to be learned, we will become good linguists and learn French and German too, as do the minor European language speakers. There is no one more insulated from other people's ideas than the monoglot English speaker; this is visible wherever you find them. The sooner we leave that club the better).

(11) Irish science and technology would be put on the map; a sensible balance being struck between pure and applied science and industrial development works. (At the moment there are isolated enclaves in tenuous contact with laboratories abroad, with great gulfs between them. Research where it occurs has to surmount unbelievable obstacles. This is worth a series of articles on its own).

So much for the 32-county Utopia. This is easy to do: pen and ink are cheap, ideas even cheaper. How do we translate them into reality?

In brief: the approach now developing is classical Wolfe Tone: to organise the people whose interests are actively being damaged by the existing economic, political and social set-up to fight for short-term objectives, and to proceed step by step, overcoming each new obstacle as it is revealed.

This represents a return to classical republicanism and a departure from the more recent tradition of "shoot first and explain afterwards." The Government, whose auctioneering work on the national assets in the long run is likely to be endangered by this trend, is acutely aware of this and is actively engaged in trying to force the movement into the Forties mould, aided by "physical-force" splinter groups; no doubt under the leadership of agents-provocateurs, and to sow dissension by leaks to a national daily suggesting that "Communist infiltration" is going on. This same daily on a famous occasion called for Connolly's execution. This in the 1916 jubilee Year. Further comment is superfluous.

it is now widely understood in the movement that the surest recipe for the Fianna Fail/Clann na Poblacht process is for the gunman to go straight into politics without clear social objectives. Fear of this process is the basis for the traditional instinctive Sinn Fein attitude to Leinster House.

The new element now coming into existence is a "mass movement" for immediate goals all of which are demonstrably the results of the domination of the country by the foreign monopolies.

On March 22nd last I attended a meeting in Galway which was addressed by two fishermen, a farmer, and was chaired by an industrial worker from Galway city. Professor O Nuallain of UCG spoke; I said a few words myself. There was not a single traditional politician present, nor was a single political debating point scored. The demand was simple: they want the right to fish Galway Bay for salmon. This they are prevented from doing by a regulation of the London company which owns the Corrib river. They want all river fishing rights to be nationalised and handed over to local-based co-operatives, the profits to be used for local development work. The National Waters Restoration League is spreading rapidly to all areas restricted by the ascendancy fishing regulations. In this and its like I see the seeds of the future. Perhaps I am over-optimistic, but what I find most encouraging is the tendency for at least some intellectuals to emerge from their academic shells and to associate themselves with the demands of the ordinary people and to help formulate them.

JJ and the Albert College

There are among JJ's papers a record of a press correspondence relating to the closure of the Albert Agricultural College at Glasnevin (now the site of Dublin City University). He wrote in supporting a letter from one Mr Lawson on this topic, the letter being published in the Irish Times on October 13 1964; he added in some comments based on his experience in the 1950s with his experimental smallholding at Vicarstown near Stradbally in Laois. He had three cows, which he enabled to shelter with bedding of straw, and he used the manure to feed a horticultural enterprise, which gave him high-quality marketable disease-free soft fruit without the need to resort to pesticides. He urged that the Albert College should be retained, for the purpose of encouraging an integrated approach between agriculture and horticulture.

There was a positive response from a creamery manager, addressed to JJ personally, and he published it in a subsequent letter, which appeared on October 26 1964. JJ used this to strengthen his argument for the retention of the Albert College as a training ground for the integration of smallholding agriculture with horticulture, and he linked it with the need to provide a valid agri-technical approach to the socio-cultural survival requirements of the Gaeltacht. He used the phrase 'to tie horticulture to the cow's tail'.

JJ and the TCD-UCD Merger

There are in addition three documents among JJ's papers which relate to the proposed 1968 'merger' between TCD and UCD, as then advocated by the Government, as a consequence of some rather superficial economic analyses. The first is undated and duplicated; JJ seems to have intended it as a sort of background paper for the internal discussion in TCD.

TCD as a 32-County National University
The necessity of doing something drastic to solve the University problem in Ireland is generally admitted. Our increasing financial dependence on the government of the Republic makes It essential that it should have the last word in any proposed changes. It also makes it essential that we should state our case from a 32-county national point of view, and while not ignoring them, place less emphasis on our own narrower, academic interests and rights.

Having had an association of 61 years with TCD, I cannot help being somewhat personal in my approach to our present problem. I came here a raw youth of 16 years of age in 1906 from one of the 'excluded' counties and from a somewhat anti-national social and family atmosphere. My whole subsequent life here been influenced by the liberal civilising and (32 county) nationalising influences which I encountered here, in a persistent minority tradition which has its roots deep in our academic history. While prowling about a second-hand bookshop on the quays, I came across and acquired a book called 'Songs and Ballads of Young Ireland'. One poem by Thomas Davis opened my mind to a concept of Irish nationalism which today more than ever has a moral for the majority in the 26 counties, as much as for the majority in the six. I quote from memory:

'What matter though at different times / Our fathers won the sod
What matter though at different shrines / We pray unto one God.
In fortune and in name we're bound / By stronger links than steel
And neither can be safe or sound / Save in the other's weal.'

This concept of nationalism transcends the concept which reflects itself in the ecclesiastical 'ban', and is in direct conflict with the sectarian ideology which prevails in the Six. We have a civilising mission not only for our students from Northern Ireland, but for an increasing proportion of Catholic students from the South.

Any change in our status which would make our image in Northern Ireland more and more that of a 26 county Republic institution would be a disaster for all Ireland.

The proposal to unite the two Dublin Colleges in one University has been represented as a proposal to abolish Partition on the one department of our national life where our government has the power to abolish it. There is a danger that it may only serve to aggravate its fundamental causes, for these lie in the hearts and minds of our people of both religions, and can only be removed by a liberal education of the younger generation.

In the past, admittedly, a majority of our students has inherited an anti-national tradition. That was not our fault so much as our misfortune. But at every critical moment in our national history, from Wolfe Tone to Eamonn de Valera, there has been a minority element with a liberal national outlook and this active leaven has not been without influence on the outlook of the majority of both staff and students who regarded themselves as Unionists. An outstanding example of this occurred in 1912, and has been almost forgotten because it has not been adequately publicised lately. Sir James Campbell, one of our members at Westminster, introduced an amendment to the Home Rule Bill, removing TCD from the jurisdiction of the Home Rule Parliament. There was a meeting of members of the staff, in which the late Dr Alton took a prominent part, at which a resolution was passed demanding the withdrawal of this amendment. A somewhat crestfallen Sir James Campbell had to withdraw it. The significance of this incident was that whatever the political affiliations of the majority of our staff, the University regarded itself as a National 32 county University and intended to remain such.

Finally, I am not convinced that there is any serious economy of public expenditure to be achieved by uniting both Dublin Colleges in one University. Each College will have to maintain a wide spectrum of academic disciplines and the organisation of a common University superstructure will be complicated and difficult.

In Oxford, anyone living between Broad Street and High Street has at least 12 Colleges within five minutes' walk, and can go to lectures in any of them. There can be real co-operation in teaching even at undergraduate level. Belfield is four miles from College Green, and Earlsfort Terrace is not so very near. Geography makes such co-operation in Dublin at undergraduate level practically impossible. At post-graduate level we have already a valuable link between all our Institutions of higher learning in the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. Its functions could be developed and extended to cover a wider range of post-graduate studies.

Actually, any undergraduate College whose students exceed 3,000 in number is big enough to be a University in its own right, and there is no reason why Dublin should not have two Universities There is every reason why TCD should continue to function as de facto National University for a 32 County Ireland, even if it may not call itself by that name.

The Merger, Partition and the Wolfe Tone Society
There followed a letter from JJ to the Irish Times dated 14/03/1968, as follows:

Dear Sir / Perhaps the best tribute we can pay to the memory of our late Minister of Education is to give substance to his ideas about one Dublin University even if opinions still differ widely with regard to the form it should take.

Having spent two year as an undergraduate of an Oxford College I appreciate the geographical conditions which must be fulfilled if the organic unity of a multi-college university is to enrich the variety of the cultural academic and recreational life that takes place In the Colleges.

At Oxford one went to some lectures in one's own College but probably more in one or other of some 20 or more Colleges which ware all within comfortable walking distance. One had one's !tutorials' in one's own or a very near College and one's tutor or tutors kept a close a friendly eye on one's progress. A tutorial session after 'Hall', about 8 pm, was not unusual but I don't think such late tutorials would be very popular in Dublin.

None of the Colleges had any of the modern science buildings that are nowadays so important. The science buildings were concentrated in a separate region, just outside the perimeter of the Colleges area, but were within easy reach of everyone no matter what college he belonged to. The buildings were essentially a University Institution but every undergraduate of any college had an equal right of access to these buildings if he happened to be specialising in any science.

There was no problem of co-ordinating the courses pursued by undergraduates for that problem solved itself automatically by reason of the neighbourliness of which propinquity is an essential condition.

It to the possibility of effective cooperation at undergraduate level that creates the organic unity which is essential to a real university whether it has two colleges or twenty. Cooperation at post-graduate and research level is a different matter, and should envisage all our universities, North, South, East and West.

If UCD is permanently located at Belfield we'll have a university of which half the vital organs are in College Green and the other half five miles away.

*Is it possible to bring UCD into closer proximity to College Green? Even Earlsfort Terrace is a bit distant - but much nearer than Belfield. A suggestion was made lately in your columns by a namesake of mine who is also a near relative. I would like to expand and modify the essence of his suggestion.

*Between Hume Street and Leinster Street there are a number of big buildings and fine 18th century houses now used for various purposes, but many of them capable of becoming the nucleus of a Dublin University College if their present uses and occupants could be accommodated elsewhere.

*The old College of Science was built for academic purposes. What is it now? It should become the central feature and main entrance to a new Dublin University College. The Department of Agriculture Building and Government Buildings as also the former CITC building are an obvious addition. So two is Leinster House if its occupants can be persuaded to move to more appropriate surroundings. The Museum, the National Gallery and the National Library should retain their present functions, but surely their near neighbourhood would enhance the prestige and add to the convenience and usefulness of the new university College.

*In Merrion Square West there are some Government offices which could go elsewhere, and the houses concerned could become residential student hostels or some other academic purpose. Perhaps some of the houses in Upper Merrion Street could be treated in a similar fashion. At least a quarter of the Merrion Square Green should become part of a College campus. Various traffic problems would arise if the route through Upper Merrion Street was closed to public traffic but they are not insoluble.

*Where would our legislators go? Why not to a reconstructed Royal Hospital at Kilmainham? To judge from the map there is room for much new building of needed Government offices etc; the premises of King's Hospital are now available and it is not too far away. What could be more inspiring to our legislators than the immediate proximity of Kilmainham Jail where Henry Joy McCracken languished and many of our more recent national leaders graduated into public life when they were fortunate enough to escape the firing squad.

*Another obvious advantage of this neighbourhood is its convenience for our country legislators. It would symbolise in a much needed way the fact that Dublin is a national capital and is oriented (perhaps I should say 'occidented') to the country as a whole and no longer mainly a congested metropolitan agglomeration.

*The present commitments at Belfield could be disposed of for other purposes, probably with some gain.

*The accommodation suggested for the new Dublin University College would be perhaps inadequate for l0,000 students but the correct national approach to that problem is to promote the rapid development of Cork and Galway and perhaps a new "O'Malley University" of Limerick. All students in excess of 6000 for UCD and 4O00 for TCD should be hived of westwards, thus promoting the economic and cultural growth of our problem areas and relieving the pressure of population in Dublin.

Perhaps the foregoing was not published; he sent it in as a response to a letter from RJ, in his then capacity as vice-Chairman of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society. He tried again on April 16, ad follows:

Sir, The question of the proposed 'merger' of TCD and UCD does not concern only Dublin and the metropolitan region but is a matter of great national importance in which the people living in the more remote regions are also vitally concerned. I write as one who for more than 50 years has been a member of the teaching staff in TCD, as a Fellow, and for nearly 30 years as a Professor in the University, in which it has been the only College. In my extra-academic activities I have made a life-long study of the problems of our agricultural economy, and in more recent decades of the special problems of our small farm areas in the west. There is some danger that the special concern of the outlying regions may be overlooked in the final settlement. Consequently I regard the problem as a national and not merely as an academic one.

And yet tho academic aspect of the problem may not be ignored. We would welcome tho addition of UCD to an expanded Dublin University that might legitimately continue to be called Dublin University. Having spent two undergraduate years as a member of an Oxford College, which was one of some 20 Oxford Colleges in that University, I have personal experience of the local conditions which are essential to the organic unity of any multi-College University whether it consists of two Colleges or twenty. Those conditions existed while UCD was mainly concentrated in the Earlsfort Terrace neighbourhood but they ceased to exist when it was decided to move the main centre of U0D to Belfield four miles away from College Green.

Any member of any Oxford College can walk to lectures or tutorials in any other College and got there in a very few minutes. The expensive and elaborate modern scientific buildings are a University responsibility at Oxford, but are accessible on equal terms to the members of all Colleges. This alone is a definite economy which is not possible in the present local situation of our two Dublin Colleges. The dis-economy for staff and students of commuting to and fro along the busy road to Belfield will more than negative all the economies it is possible to make by having some specialised equipment located in one College and some in the other. Anyhow there are serious academic objections to either College being without the complete complex of faculties which is essential to the full academic life of any University College, and if the present proposals are implemented there will have to be much potentially uneconomic duplication.

A "Dublin" University with half its vital organs in College Green and the other half miles away in Belfield would make impossible the effective co-operation at undergraduate level which is essential to tho organic unity of any University.

Is it possible to bring UCD into closer proximity to College Green? Even Earlsfort Terrace is a bit distant - but much nearer than Belfield. A suggestion was made lately in the Irish Times by a namesake of mine who is also a near relative. I would like to expand and modify the essence of his suggestion.

The letter continues with the paragraphs marked * of the earlier letter, and then adds as follows:

Thus Cork, Limerick Galway, and perhaps at a later stage, Sligo, have an immediate local need, as well as a national obligation, to press for a policy involving a much more modest increase in the Dublin student population, and the immediate expansion of Cork and Galway as separate Universities accommodating a greatly increased student population. At a later stage the establishment of separate Universities at Limerick and Sligo would provide for a further increase of student population.

There would be considerable economies for the State in the cheaper cost of land and building there, as compared to Dublin, and the mere presence of a new staff and student population in these localities would give a "shot in the arm" to the local regional economies which could not fail to promote their economic, commercial and cultural life as well as producing a better balance in our national economy as a whole.

There is a living tradition of a strong contingent of Northern Ireland students coming to Galway. A revival of this tradition would make a valuable contribution to the Present policy of developing more neighbourly relations with our Northern neighbours, and perhaps to the ultimate reunification of our divided nation.

I would welcome your comments and those of your readers on all these rather novel suggestions.

Yours etc Joseph Johnston

There was an associated letter published from RJ, as follows:

Sir / As the namesake referred to in the above letter I feel that I must give very full support to the above proposals. May I add, however, that it is not enough to state them in print; it is necessary that those concerned with the Cork and Galway Colleges, and with the general economy of the West and South (including Trades Councils and Chambers of Commerce) should organise and put pressure on the Government There are more in Dublin to support demands along these lines than might be apparent at first sight.

Roy H W Johnston, PhD,
Vice-Chairman, Dublin Wolfe Tone Society,
22, Belgrave Road, Dublin 6.

[RJ and Politics in the 1960s] [1960s Overview] [To 'Century' Contents Page]

Some navigational notes:

A highlighted number brings up a footnote or a reference. A highlighted word hotlinks to another document (chapter, appendix, table of contents, whatever). In general, if you click on the 'Back' button it will bring to to the point of departure in the document from which you came.

Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999