Very impressive history of the official republican movement in Ireland or if you like - The Official IRA and the Workers Party. The bulk of the narrative covers 1962 to the peace agreement. Five years of research and writing by two dedicated journalists has resulted in a very readable tale that you could not invent if it were not true. The main characters are terrorists (or freedom fighters if you will), political ideologues, communists and socialists of all shades of red and pink, civil rights campaigners, social democrats, bank robbers, bombers, petty criminals, opportunists and hangers on of every description. Financed by bank robberies, protection rackets, VAT scams, North American and North Korean dollars a handful of revolutionaries try to convince Ireland to become the next Soviet Satelite State. They didn't pull it off but they had an impact on Irish political life than can still be felt today as Ireland's economy has been stolen and gambled away by a handful of incompetant, possibly corrupt, bankers, politicians and property speculators. The depth of detail and research is amazing, seems the authors tracked down anyone and everyone that would talk about the movement that began with the spilt of the IRA into Official and Provisional wings. Often stranger than fiction the one thing that hit home to me was that it was a brave man who got involved in any form of republican politics during those times because the internal violence was almost endemic. However there was no shortage of volunteers on both sides as the IRA fought against each other in the South and the North, fought with the Protestants and the British Army in the North and tried to open a third front with bombings in the UK. If, like me, you sometimes were confused by the 'Stickies', 'Pinheads', 'Officials', 'Provos' etc, their divisions, aims and policies then this is the book that explains all. Long, 600 pages, it rarely flags, clear and consise, I rarely felt the need to refer back to previous pages or chapters, to me the sign of a well written book. Good value for the £10 cover price.
What a brilliant book. I have read many, many histories of 'the Troubles' and Irish Republicanism but this book adds a very important dimension, that of Sinn Fein and the Official IRA and its development into a Left Wing political party. The authors have obviously undertook a massive amount of research and their findings have given the reader fantastic insights into the workings of Republican and Nationalist politicians and activists and how political power was supported by military power in the quest for change. There were vivid insights into how the Officials came into contact with Loyalist groups, with the British Army and the Provisionals some of which, as one subject commented 'could only happen in Ireland'. Ultimately, and ironically, the Officials programme for peace in N. Ireland was largely adopted by the Provos, Loyalists and the UK government yet the Officials/Workers Party remains on the periphery of Irish politics. A brilliant read.
"The Lost Revolution" is an impressive and very thorough history of the Official IRA and its various political wings over the years. Starting with the failed IRA campaign of the 1950's ,the book meticulously covers the splits that led to the birth of the Provisional IRA and the IRSP/INLA, the OIRA "ceasfire" and the rise and fall of the Workers Party right up to the present day where the Workers Party still lives on ,virtually anonymously, on the margins of left wing Irish politics. "The Lost Revolution" is a bit of a "warts and all" expose of the Official movement ,which nonethless comes across reasonably well, despite the book revealing how the OIRA "ceasefire" was broken on many occasions during internecine feuds with other republicans and how the OIRA acted as fundraisers for the Workers Party by staging armed robberies in collusion with criminal gangs for a prolonged period. It's a pity that the Northern Catholics failed to support the Officials in the 1970's and instead tacitly backed the killing rage of the Provos in their aim to drive the British out of Ulster by force. Maybe if the Officials had won the day , we would have had a power sharing executive with an Irish dimension 30 years sooner as the Officials realised early on that peaceful reconciliation would have to be achieved with the Ulster Protestants before a unified Ireland could be realised. The Officials had no real desire to fight the British security forces and the loyalists as they felt that it only led to polarisation among the working class and the wider community. The book also gives a flavour of the moral revulsion the Officials had towards violence, only using it sparingly and in what they perceived as self defence. "The Lost Revolution" also conveys the deep hatred the Officials had for the Provos, possibly matching that of the UDA or UVF ide. One anecdote tells of Gerry Adams bumping into Seamus Lynch and Mary McMahon of the Workers Party while out canvassing in a 1980's election. Gerry asks "What about you, Seamus ?" in his avuncular manner. McMahon replies "F**k off, you murdering b*****d". The "Sticks" were not afraid to stand up to the Provos. However the book also reveals that the Officials/Workers Party were dedicated pro-Soviet ,Marxist-Leninists who would probably have turned Ireland into another Cuba had they got the chance. Were the "Stickies" right though ? Yes and no is perhaps the right answer. Yes, they were right in the sense that the consent of Northern Protestants to a united Ireland was required and that political violence was wrong but No in the sense that their Marxist analysis was proved wrong by the collapse of the Soviet Union and their satellite states in Eastern Europe which were so admired by the Officials. Were the Provos right then ? Well, one could argue that their prolonged murder and bombing campaign (especially in England) forced the British to pressurise the Protestants to accept a fairly "green" political settlement in the form of the Belfast Agreement in 1998 and having terrorists in government . The Provos have also developed almost unrecognisably from what the Officals saw as a "lumpen" movement into a sophisticated and intelligent populist Catholic party that appeals particularly to those of a collectivist mindset. However they are still purely a tribal party despite the large number of votes Gerry Adams received from people on the Shankill Road in the 2010 Wstminster election, presumably by Protestants suffering from some kind of mental illness. In fact some would argue that Sinn Fein are co-ordinating a kind of undeclared war on their enemies in the workplace and elsewhere by use of occult psychological techniques and that old Irish favourite - ostracism and the threat of boycott. "The Lost Revolution" is a fascinating book, bringing back old memories from the "good old days" of the 1970's and 1980's and telling the tale of the "Real" IRA and it's political wing for a change , not the Provo "splitters".
Based on information taken from 119 credited interviews, numerous anonymous interviews, 324 books and articles, 120 newspapers and journals, twenty-seven visual sources, three unpublished memoirs, five theses, and three official reports, as well as full access to the Workers' Party's archive, the book is five years in the making. The writing is clear, direct, and authoritative.
The Lost Revolution begins with the 1950s border campaign, and the aftermath of its failure. According to Sean Garland, the problem of The North was `a much deeper problem than we envisaged' and the necessary re-think in the 1960s saw elements within Sinn Féin and the IRA look towards contemporaneous left-wing national liberation movements across the globe, from Cuba to Vietnam. Cathal Goulding started to convince IRA members of the `importance of social agitation' and in 1965 `an IRA Department of Political Education' was set up and began organizing classes for volunteers.
Resistance to Goulding's plans soon developed around the figure of Seán Mac Stíofáin, O/C of the Cork/South Kerry area, who had been elected to the IRA Army Council in 1964. The move towards a socialist analysis opened up fissures in the movement. Whereas the splits in the IRA and Sinn Féin in December 1969 and January 1970 most certainly came from within the republican movement itself, the tactical support given to the Provisionals by the Irish government was to try to ensure that the Marxists were marginalised, and that the instability of the North stayed in the North.
The events of 1969 to 1973 are covered in great detail by Lost Revolution, as is the radicalisation of the Officials in the South with regard to the substantial economic and social issues faced by the the country's working class.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, `Group B' as the Official IRA became known within the Officials, organised robberies and continued to kill, especially when provoked by the Provisionals and by the INLA. In the 1980s the movement required all military operatives to deny they were members of the Officials, and this policy saw `Group B' operatives sentenced as ordinary criminals when caught and convicted. Over the years, Group B's primary focus shifted from defence of its areas in the North, to becoming more important as the `fundraising' wing of the Officials. It never lost this role.
The ambitions of the party's parliamentarians, however, proved to be the enemy within. The split in 1992 is seen as driven by the lack of theoretical coherence caused by the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the careerist outlook of the party's T.D.s (members of parliament).
From the start, the goal of the Officials was to build a non-sectarian class-based political movement in order to protect the interests of the island's working class. The goal was a 32-county socialist republic, never a 32-county Catholic republic. Theirs was a class-based analysis, and for the most part it stuck to it.
It may be seen by some that the Officials are done no favours by Lost Revolution - given the exposure of criminal activity and the critical analysis of its `intellectual wing'. I would disagree. This is an honest and thoughtful account of the Officials, arguably the most successful and dynamic working class political organisation in Irish history. The Officials got things wrong, but they got things right as well. Lost Revolution shows that the Officials and their history still have things to offer us today.