Dec 09 2016




As the official celebrations and the unofficial commemorations of the centenary of the First World War continue, many personal accounts, poems and novels written about this period have been published or republished. One novel, not yet republished, is Return of the Brute, written by Liam O’Flaherty. David Trotter, in The Cambridge Companion to The Literature of the First World War, argues that, unlike most British war novels, it was written by an author of proletarian origin. Whilst O’Flaherty was Irish, Trotter is right in considering  Return of the Brute to be a British war novel. It is based upon the author’s experiences fighting in the British army on the western front.  The novel “intended to do justice to the brute’s point of view” [1], where the “brute” stands for working-class soldiers. If so, the “brute” refers to atomised, alienated and demoralised workers, brutalised by life on the western front.

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Jan 21 2015




Photo of RCN banner – Patricia Kirk & John Lannigan


A) The emergence and clash of Left British unionism and Left Scottish nationalism

B) The politics of the Scottish independence referendum campaign

C) How the Left responded to the demand for greater national self-determination in Scotland

D) Carrying over lessons learned from the SSP experience

           i)   the need for political platforms

           ii)  the need for a revolutionary pole of attraction

           iii) the need for political balance sheets to avoid repeating earlier mistakes

E) Promoting socialist republicanism and ‘internationalism from below’

           i) The political legacy of the Republican Socialist Conventions and the Global Commune events

           ii) Debating with other socialists during the Scottish independence referendum campaign

           iii) promoting socialist republicanism and ‘internationalism from below’ in RIC

           iv) the debate over secularism

           v) the debate over Ireland

F) Debates and differences within the RCN

          i) in the lead up and during the referendum campaign

          ii) since the September 18th referendum

          iii) the future for RIC, the all-islands Republican Socialist Alliance and the Scottish Left Project






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Jan 21 2015

BOB PURDIE, 1940-2014


D.R.O’Connor Lysaght of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) has written the following obituary to Bob Purdie. Bon was onetime member of the International Marxist Group and influential in establishing their position in the Irish struggle for Irish self-determination in the 1970’s. Later a member of the SNP, he recently wrote Hugh MacDairmid: Black, Green, Red and Tartan

Obituary: Bob Purdie 1940-2014

Bob Purdie's 'Ireland Unfree' written for the IMG in 1972

Bob Purdie’s ‘Ireland Unfree’ written for the IMG in 1972

 Bob Purdie was always dedicated. Whether as a Marxist revolutionary or an academic, he gave himself 100% to his calling. He came to show equal dedication to Christianity and to the Scottish Nationalist Party. The change in his allegiances cannot be said to have been a tragedy for him; his last letters to this writer were those of a contented individual. Nonetheless, it was a misfortune for the left.

The writer met Bob first in 1970 when he opened the door of his flat to him. He came with a letter from Gery Lawless proclaiming him to be “one of the good guys“.  For once Lawless was making a strictly accurate assessment.  Politically. Bob Purdie was one of the good guys at that time; personally he remained so to the end.

It was in these early seventies that the writer knew him best. There were at first certain mutual suspicions on both sides. In particular, like many others, Bob tended to assume that the fact that the Official Republicans had more obviously socially enlightened, even socialistic policies than the Provisionals left them open to real Marxism. The writer warned him that their movement’s progress thither would be hobbled disastrously by the fact that its political mentors had been
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Apr 01 2014


John Lanigan (RCN) attended the book launch of YES: The Radical Case for Independence, written by James Foley and Pete Ramand of the International Socialist Group and the Radical Independence Campaign. The book was launched at the Centre for Contemporary Arts on Sunday March 30th. Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, James Foley and Pete Ramand spoke. Below is John’s report of this event.

Pete Ramand, Bernadette McAliskey, Cat Boyd and James Foley at Glasgow book launch

Pete Ramand, Bernadette McAliskey, Cat Boyd and James Foley at Glasgow book launch


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Feb 12 2014



If much of the Left in England has become all nostalgic about Old Labour following Ken Loach’s The Spirit of ’45, then much of the Left in Scotland, both in and out of the Labour Left, look back to Scottish Labour’s ‘glory days’ in the 1970’s. Here Gerry Hassan reviews dissident SNP member, Jim Sillar’s In Place of Fear II, and points out its parallels with the Scottish Labour Left, Red Paper Collective’s thinking. The E&L Editorial Board would like to thank Gerry Hassan for giving his permission to publish this article, which first appeared in the Scottish Review.


Jim Sillars in a pensive moment at his book launch - "Ah, I can remember the glory days of the 1970's"

Jim Sillars in a pensive moment at his book launch – “Ah, I can remember the glory days of the 1970’s”

Scotland’s current debate on independence comprises many conversations. They centre on what we were, are, and could be, and who did what to whom in the past, and what it means about where we are now, and what we could become in the future.

Continue reading “A REVIEW OF JIM SILLARS’ ‘IN PLACE OF FEAR II’ by Gerry Hassan”

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Sep 16 2013


Mary McGregor (RCN) writes this appreciation of the celebrated Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, who died on August 30th.


Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

Heaney was a poet of international acclaim. His skill and ability to convey emotions in words and images is exceptional. He was part of the land and appreciated its importance in shaping its sons and daughters. For him the Irish landscape was the repository of Irish history and yet he rejected the worlds of his father and “his father before him” in favour of writing poetry. This invariably placed him as an outsider in terms of his own family and traditions.

He could not however escape his heritage as part of a catholic and nationalist family in the north or ignore his need to chronicle the injustice and bloodshed which was the backdrop to his life.

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Jun 02 2013

Allan Armstrong (RCN) replies to David Jamieson (ISG) – part 2

Since I wrote the first part of my reply ( I have met David for the first time. Face-to-face discussions are a better way of trying to understand the thinking and positions that others hold. They can also help to overcome some preconceived notions. In the pub, after the joint ISG, ISN, RCN and September 15th group meeting on May 11th in Edinburgh, David raised some important questions, and pointed to some of the characteristics of contemporary society, which Socialists do need to address, if we are to move forward.

The RCN has been involved in organised discussions and debate with other Socialists, first in the hope these can lift our mutual understanding to a higher level and then lead to more effective wider political activity.

However, not all debates can be resolved in this way.  Real differences often still remain. These may even prove productive over the course of time, when the practical relevance of previously minority thinking becomes more apparent. Socialist organisations and campaigning coalitions, e.g. the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), need to give scope for such discussions, because they may have considerable impact as the struggle progresses. Such discussions and debates also need to be real  – a contesting of positions actually held, not attacks on ‘straw men’, which have been so common on the Left.  I think that David would agree with such an approach.

We have often seen people on the Left attempting to avoid such debates. Instead, they emphasise the need for action now around immediate demands. This means that the development of the strategy and tactics necessary for any campaign are left to the ‘thinkers’ (usually a self-appointed celebrity leader and his immediate advisors, or some Central Committee). The rest of us remain mere ‘doers’, implementing the decisions of others or, where we do try to raise important issues of principle, we get dismissed as ‘moaners’ or ‘splitters’.

Even, when top-down led struggles appear to have been successful, they usually lead to new forms of domination or worse still, oppression, either under populist leaders or the Party-state. Such an approach is fundamentally anti-socialist. “The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself”. Our emancipation can come only about through a combination of both thought and action. We all need to be involved in both these activities if we wish to create a new society, which we can collectively control.

After these preliminary comments, I take up some of the other points which David has raised. First this reply provides clarification of possible remaining misunderstandings. Then it addresses the remaining differences, not covered in part 1 of my response to David.

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Mar 30 2013

RIDING TWO HORSES AT ONCE – The SWP and Scottish independence

Scan copyThe following extended review of Keir McKechnie’s pamphlet, Scotland – Yes to Independence: No to Nationalism, was started before the most recent crisis in the SWP became public. Until the SWP resolves this crisis, its political interventions are likely to have more limited impact on the Left than in the past. Socialists should support those SWP members who are rebelling against their party’s bureaucratic and sectarian regime. The whole of the Left will benefit when the shared need for a democratic, non-sectarian and anti-sexist culture is accepted.

But, whichever way the party crisis is eventually resolved (or not), it is still useful to address the specific arguments raised by Keir in his pamphlet, because many have a wider resonance on the Left.  As the SWP moves away from its recent Left Unionist approach to the ‘National Question’ in Scotland, it appears to be following others in adopting elements of a Left Nationalist approach.

However, with the SWP being at an early stage in this transition, Keir’s pamphlet shows elements of both Left Unionism and Left Nationalism. The fact that these two political approaches can live in a symbiotic, and not always conflicting relationship with each other, makes it worth devoting the space to showing some of these connections.

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Mar 30 2013

David Douglass reviews – Adrian Kerr, ‘Free Derry: protest and resistance’.

Adrian Kerr, Free Derry – protest and resistance, Guildhall Press, 2013, pp. 224, £11.95


th-2From the declaration of ‘Free Derry’ on August 9 1971, when the solidly working class and republican community seized control of their own area of the city of Londonderry, to the time of the Provisional Irish Republican Army ceasefire in 1994, the price paid and the degree of resistance mounted within it was hugely inordinate, by comparison with occupied Ulster as a whole.

One hundred and twenty-two people lost their lives in and around the Free Derry area, including 73 civilians and republican volunteers, and 49 members of the security forces or civilians working for them. Over 3% of the total deaths for the whole of the conflict occurred in an area containing less than 1% of the population of the north of Ireland. The largest number of killings were committed by the ‘security forces’ – 46 died at the hands of either the British army or the Royal Ulster Constabulary, 33 of whom were civilian non-combatants.

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Mar 26 2013

Allan Armstrong (RCN) replies to David Jamieson (ISG) – part 1

David Jamieson of the International Socialist Group has replied to two contributions made by Allan Armstrong of the Republican Communist Network (see These took a critical look at ISG member, James Foley’s pamphlet, Britain Must Break, and examined the prospects for the Radical Independence Campaign, and the role of the ISG within it, following from  the successful conference held last November 24th in Glasgow. The RCN very much welcomes the ISG’s preparedness to enter into such debates in a considered and fraternal manner. 

There are a number of elements to David’s reply, which will be dealt with separately. However, the most immediate difference  arises over how the RIC should organise. Once some of David’s misunderstandings about what the RCN proposes are cleared up, then it may be possible to  agree on the  democratic form of organisation we all require. This could help  the ISG, RCN and other participants move the RIC forwards  to a higher political synthesis,  using people’s  varied contributions  and experiences. In doing so, the RIC would break with the sectarianism and opportunism which has characterised so much of the Left’s practice up until now. The current crisis in the SWP highlights the necessity for this.

Continue reading “Allan Armstrong (RCN) replies to David Jamieson (ISG) – part 1”

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