wHEN I was in the Communist
Party we always took the view that W. H. McCullough, who was responsible for the party's activities in Ireland, had the toughest job of anyone in the movement. We usually referred to biro as "poor old Billie." Yet we also believed that sooner or later his opportunity would come and that when it did Ireland would surprise everyone.
" For the moment," we said, "Eire has exhausted her revolutionary energy and is, in addition, sunk in Catholic superstition; and the North is submerged in sectarianism. But it won't always be like that." So we adapted our policy to that analysis, gave up making the building of a " mass party " our immediate aim and set about finding other methods.
It was decided to build again from the bottom up. A small public party would be kept alive at all costs, in order to " keep the party's name before the workers," and then built up as the situation " improved." But in the meantime the party's main activities would be through infiltrating trade unions, the Labour Movement and any other political. cultural and industrial bodies which could he used in this way. and creating where necessary, new organisations vouch would spread the Communist influence.
It is along such lines that the party is stilt working today.
The Party Today
The Irish Communist Party covers the whole of Ireland, North and South, which is intended to broaden its appeal to Nationalists and antipartitionists both in Ireland and in Britain.
Twelve months ago the total Irish membership was less than four hundred. an absurdly small figure until one remembers that there were even less party members in Rumania when the Red Army arrived there, and established a Communist re gime. But they were enough to form a quisling government which soon had the support of every political adventurer in the land and is today, as firmly established as any other "proletarian" dictatorship.
The party in Dublin is, at the moment, trying to improve its members' Marxism which has so far been weak. For the party in the TwentySix Counties has a special problem.
In a largely pagan country like Britain it usually attracts the best. In' a cottntry which still has the Faith. the tendency is much more for it to attract the worst. the political misfits and ne'er-do-wells.
And so London headquarters have been sending over some of their Marxist educators to lend a hand. A study series was started by Douglas Garman, head of the party education department in London, and is still running. It has brought a steady trickle of visiting British Communist leaders into Dublin. Thus, for example, when the chairman of the London party, Claud Berridge, and the Daily Worker's Industrial Correspondent, George Sinfteld, found themselves together at a recent trade union conference in Belfast they made a point of travelling down to Dublin to give the members some assistance.
Another recent visitor With a special responsibility was Sam Asaronoviteli, the party's authority on the colonial and backward peoples, who now apparently include the Irish people, which is hardly flattering to the Irish but accurately reflects the London Communists' views on the question.
Where Catholics Fall for the Bait
The party's work inside the trade unions and Labour movement has met with a certain amount of success which is made possible by the willingness of Catholics to be led by known atheists and suspected Communists provided only that they show themselves able to obtain material advantages for their members.
The obvious dangers of such a situation are underlined by the more recent history of Catholic Italy, many of whose present troubles are attributable to precisely such a practice. When a Catholic nation is prepared to trust its material fortunes to such people it is apt to find that in the process it has lost its spiritual treasures.
Active Youth and Women's organisations have also been brought into existence, linked with London Communist circles and with international bodies of known Com munist origin. The lines they are following are typical. Stressing their non-party character, they exploit social issues with a view to bringing non-Marxists into Communist circles and so familiarising them with Communists and Communism. Leading their work in Dublin is a woman with a wide and varied experience of crypto-Communists activities in England.
In Belfast the party conducts rather more of its activities above
ground. McCullough himself has run as a parliamentary candidate on more than one occasion, and another known Communist, Betty Sinclair, has run under the party's colours in local elections. Experience has shown that when a Communist stands in the North in a straight fight with a Unionist he is able to gain a not inconsiderable number of Catholic anti-Unionist
Belfast Communists have been able to gain sufficient support from both Catholic and Protestant workers to have an active group. led by Bctty Sinclair, on the Belfast Trades Council. as a result of which the party line is kept constantly before important sections of the organised industrial workers.
A curious factor enters into the situation when one considers the prospects for Communism in the North, and it is this: the bitter, artificially inflamed sectarianism of the Protestant workers has so far largely kept them from becoming Communists. It has split the workers on a religious basis and kept Protestants busy fighting Catholics when they might otherwise have been fighting Capitalists.
A Danger to Be Met
But it is not unfair to say that, in the case of a great many of them, their Protestantism is much more political than spiritual. Their religion has been exploited to such an extent by those who stand to gain by pogroms that there is now no spiritual strength left in it. In the event of the Border going, and with it the exploitation of sectarian differences, there would be a very real danger of them turning to Communism to fill the spiritual vacuum which would be left.
Such an eventuality can be prevented if Catholics accept the responsibilities which the possibility of such a situation arising thrusts upon them.
A greater recognition that among the Protestants are many essentially decent and reasonable people who
might be won for the Faith or whose Opposition to Catholicism
eon be broken down. And a recognition, too, by Nationalists both in North and South that, iniquitous as the perpetuation of the Border may be, a positive onslaught upon it by means of intelligent propaganda directed towards the Protestants themselves as well as a purely negative one is required if colossal new problems arc not to follow its removal.
The degradation of democracy in the Six Counties by the Unionists has bred a dangerous contempt for it in both camps. The Orange tradition of using the democratic machine as a weapon against a religious minority has made it lose any real meaning for large numbers of Protestants, whilst all too many Catholics have given up the unequal struggle, have decided that there is nothing to be hoped for from democracy and have withdrawn in despair from participation in either national or local affairs. They have almost ceased to think along constructive lines.
The greatest tragedy in the situation in the North is that a big and potentially creative Catholic population has virtually been driven into a ghetto and, frustrated at every turn, its members may all too easily develop a sterile ghetto mentality —which would be the Orangemen's greatest victory.
It is understandable when the intelligent Derry Catholic becomes frustrated and introverted. For he has no hope of advancement whatever his talents by reason of the fact that he is a Catholic. Yet the Donegal mountains in free Eire, in which his fathers were reared, come right down to the boundaries of his town and are separated from him only by the gerrymandered Border. Yet everyone who does so represents another defeat.
Strongest Argument Against the Border The strongest argument against the Border is that it demoralises and degrades both those who uphold it and those who stiffer under it too; it makes a section of a great people turn in on itself when it might be doing so much more. It is creating the psychological and spiritual preconditions for the spread of Communism in an important part of a land which has so far been one of the strongholds against it.
In the South, too, the fight against the Border has inevitably dissipated a great deal of energy which might otherwise have been turned to more
creative purposes. And if Communism is not to achieve a break through there, certain steps will have to be taken.
Climbing the stairs of a Dublin slum tenement 1 said to my cornpanion : " You know if this were in London or Paris it would be a Red belt." He pointed to a Sacred Heart badge which hung on the door in front of us and said: "And that is the reason why it isn't."
That I believe to he absolutely true. Only the Faith stops Ireland from going " Red." The slums in the cities and the poverty of the countryside are typical of the things upon which Communism feeds in those countries which have lost the Faith or have grown lax in its prac tise. The piety of the poor of Ireland is a magnificent and breathtaking thing. It is the biggest thing in Ireland. But it must not he used as an excuse for keeping them
Emigrants' Danger Frown her shores leaves a constant stream of young men and women
for work in England. There, all too often the first and. indeed the only people to show an interest in them are the members of the cryptoCommunist Connolly Association selling their paper outside the church or cathedral. And all too often, too, their first friends are made in Communist circles as a consequence. Returning to Ireland later, they take back with them ideas which belong to another world. And from that other world non-Catholic ideas seep daily through from radio, press and cinema. From within and without the
Marxist attack is maintained. Ireland will require all her spiritual resources in the coming years to combat it.
Only a strong. intelligently held and actively practised Faith will keep the enemy at bay. But an Ireland which is spiritually strong must achieve much more than simply that. Just as she sends her missionaries to the four corners of the earth so she could influence the world in another way as well.
As Fr. Devane, S.J., has suggested in his book, The Failure of Individualism, Ireland is uniquely placed both geographically and spiritually between the individualist West and the collectivist East. The land of saints and scholars can, if she starts thinking and working along creative Catholic social lines, provide a living answer to Communism through the development of a society which is neither capitalist nor Communist but which is distinctively Catholic.
['This concludes the series of three articles on his recent visit to Ireland by Douglas Hyde.]