BICO and Phillip Ferguson

nigel_irritable mmcdon at
Sun Feb 11 19:42:24 MST 2001

I was trying to do a little research on the British and Irish Communist
Organisation, the people who gave us the less than wonderful 'two nations'
theory and I came across some old writings by Phillip Ferguson, which I
believe may originally have been posted to this list.


The BICO Stalinists were really a Belfast phenomenon, which took up
residence in London. These days they call themselves the Aneurin Bevan
Society in Britain, which is pretty weird, and have a web-site under that
name. How disturbing it must be for them, now that Sinn Fein and the IRA
have gone and sold out to British imperialism, because the whole raison
d'etre of BICO (rationalising imperialism and attacking Irish national
liberation forces) has kind of disintegrated.

A few of them have prominent jobs in universities in the North, rewriting
Irish history and politics to portray British imperialism in a favourable
light and justify loyalism.

I don't really know why they never joined up with the Sticks (the wing of
republicanism which went Stalinist in the late 60s/early 70s), as their
politics were so similar. Ellen Hazelkorn, one of the leading Stick
intellectuals, certainly wrote stuff with loyalists like Paul Bew and Henry
Patterson, both of whom I assume to have been either in BICO or part of the
BICO milieu. Austen Morgan's book on James Connolly, meanwhile, has got to
be one of the most dishonest books ever written by a 'left-winger' on
Ireland. It has balatant lies in it, which are immediately verifiable as
such when you go and check the primary sources.

I dealt with historical revisionism in the first two chapters of an MA
thesis I did a couple of years ago, which turned into a 120,000 word,
375-page tome. The chapters are a bit long to post on here, and I didn't
especially try to differentiate between the 'left wing' (Sticky and BICO)
and 'right-wing' revisionists because there is actually so little
difference between them either in methodology (and dishonesty) or in
political motivation.


Now for once on matters relating to Irish republicanism, I don't find
myself in disagreement with any of the political meat with Phillip. I did
however find some of the side issues rather interesting.

The remnants of BICO produce a very strange monthly journal which has no
less than four titles emblazoned on it ("Northern Star", "Irish Political
Review", "Workers Weekly" and "Labour Comment"). In it their chief
ideologue, Brendan Clifford, rants about pretty much anything that comes
into his head. He's mostly interesting if very strange.

The most notable thing about the journal though is that it is remarkably
republican in tone. When it isn't laying into Unionists and the British, it
reserves most of its fiercest scorn for revisionist Irish writers,
politicians and academics.

They seem to have fairly firmly repudiated their own theory and seem to
delight in savaging those who have taken it up. All leftists turned
Unionists seem to get a going over - particularly memorable was their
description of Eoghan Harris (once a leader of the Official Republican
Movement, now a leading neo-Unionist) parading around Cork in full military
regalia in the 1960s harrassing poppy sellers.

The reason I bring this up is that Paul Bew seems to ba a particular
opponent of Clifford. He regularly dissects the good professor's bleatings,
and as a sideline managed to explain Bew's political history.

It turns out that Bew was a leading member of the Official RM from the
1970s on, on the quiet. He ended up being denounced by Thomas MacGiolla at
the time of the Democratic Left split, so presumably he went with DL. This
begs the question, where is he now politically?

He's certainly one of David Trimble's closest advisors and most effective
propagandists. I'd just like to know what happened to the tiny rump of the
DL in Northern Ireland when their Southern party was absorbed by Labour a
couple of years ago?

Is Bew still in Democratic Left?

Is mise le meas,
Brian Cahill

More information about the Marxism mailing list