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Peter Hunt

A Communist View – Attack on BICO

Letter to the Irish Times

(August 1974)

From The Irish Times, 14 August 1974.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.


Liam de Paor, in his review of The Ulster General Strike, a pamphlet produced by the Workers’ Association, a front for an organisation calling itself the British and Irish Communist Organisation, is much too kind.

While he makes good criticisms of this document, these are muted with phrases describing it as “incisive and well written” and having come “from the heat of the struggle.” The article is headed A Communist View. But the British and Irish Communist Organisation, despite their name, offer no such thing. A better title for a review of this pamphlet would beA Loyalist View.

The B and ICO set off on their political excursion through Irish politics as extreme republicans. Later they invented the theory that Ireland is not one but two nations and journeyed to their present, pro-Protestant, position. In the above pamphlet, as de Paor shows, they defend the UWC from the charge of being fascist. In 1969 they distributed a different set of pamphlets in Belfast. These denounced the Protestants on the Shankill as fascists. Then they leaned to anything Catholic for succour. Today it is anything Protestant.

De Paor is correct when he says that the UWC cannot be given the label fascist. But it is even more incorrect to adopt the B and ICO position and see in the UWC the solution to all our (i.e. the Protestant’s) ills. The UWC is an unholy alliance of some who lean to the Left and, as de Paor shows, extreme Right-wing groups, some under the influence or the National Front. The strike welded it together and placed it in a position of leadership. The strike was won and the working class, Protestant and Catholic, gained not one thing. Since then, the U.W.C. has raised not one demand which could help raise the living standards of its supporters. Instead it binds the Protestant working class to their exploiters.

Socialists and Communists have a duty to win the Protestant workers away from the banner of loyalism to the banner of socialism. The B and ICO, all the arguments about nations stood to one side, stand or fall on whether they help to do this.

To win workers from Right-wing influence it is necessary to attack that Right wing. That is A.B.C. – to all but the B. and ICO. In their ten strike Bulletins they find space for not one criticism of West, Craig, Paisley or any member of the UWC Co-ordinating Committee. They themselves boast of a pat on the back from the loyalists. But what a compliment for a “Communist”, to be congratulated by these enemies of the class struggle!

Liam de Paor would have been better to use the space he spends in complimenting this group in quoting some more of their own material. Here is just one devastating example of their ability to cringe to Right-wing loyalism:

“During the great Home Rule conflict of 1912–14 such methods (the strike – P.H.) were not used because the Unionist Movement of the day gave clear and effective political leadership to the community. And what the Ulster Workers’ Council has done during recent weeks is to give to the community the same quality of democratic purposeful leadership that Carson and Craig did in 1912–14.” (Intro to Strike Bulletins)

Blinded by the growth of sectarianism the B. and ICO look for short-cuts. Others seek similar short-cuts amongst the Catholics by clinging to the tails of the Provisionals. What such “socialists” ignore is the urgent need for the uniting of the working class. Socialism will not be built “among the Catholics” or “among the Protestants”. Protestant and Catholic workers together struggling against all Tories, Orange and Green and those in Britain – it is for this that socialists must fight.

Workers can come together to struggle. Already they do this in the trade unions. By building a political party based on the trade unions they can be brought together in political struggle. This is the way forward, and the B and ICO, rather than aid this process, stand as a brake in its path. When the contradictions in the loyalist camp split it asunder, the B and ICO will be swept aside, discredited. Liam de Paor is much, much too gentle.


Yours, etc.
Peter Hunt
On behalf of the Militant Irish Monthly editorial board
32 Brickfield Drive
Dublin 12

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