my wife looked over at what, for many hours, I'd
been reading and then annotating, she marvelled:
'That's the smallest type I've ever seen!' In
the 576 densely printed pages of the joint biography
of his father, Joe, and himself, Dr Roy Johnston
compresses an enormous amount of what he acknowledges
will be more source material for historians than
a polished narrative. Belying the succinct review
of an earlier near namesake, Dr (Sam) Johnson,
unlike Paradise Lost, I did wish this tome
to be longer. Readers of The Blanket have
likely more than a few studies of the Provos on
their shelves. But what became after the 1969-70
split the Official IRA and SF has never received
in-depth treatment for its own sake, through primary
sources that document the Republican Movement's
politicisation that began around 1960 and that
continued long after Roy J. left the increasingly
brutalised, compromised, and militarised factions
competing for control of the Officials in the
early 70s. The period bookended by the defeat
of Seán Cronin's Operation Harvest and
the Séamus Costello-INLA fracture with
the Officials aroused my initial interest. Yet,
Johnston warns that this tumultuous span is merely
one among many. As a physicist, consultant on
the international development of science, and
as a Quaker and Green activist, his career far
pre- and long postdates his tenure as a leader
of what became the Officials. He, like his father,
accomplished much political work amidst their
own academic, family, and professional commitments.
Reading this auto/biography, both father and son
demonstrate their idealism, their pragmatism,
and the wisdom, rare in activists, to balance
these two characteristics.
first URL given above provides Roy's overview
of the table of contents. Johnston ambitiously
has underlined links in his book that refer to
his own on-line archives. Readers can e-mail him
at the address provided in the introduction to
request hyperlink access. The creative potential
of a book that never ends, that draws the permanence
of print into the transience of the screen, matches
the restless curiousity and fresh thinking that
he and his father both brought to many vexed issues,
often Irish, some scholarly, many political, often
national, and then for Roy republican, Marxist,
and democratic socialist, that have challenged
these two Johnstons for the whole past century.
This may be the one of the first academic works,
at least for the Irish context (I presume that
scientists already have pioneered such hybrid
publications), that combines two media and expands
the potential of the book to remain relevant in
our cyber-creative realm.
the format, and the TOC link provided, I will
summarise portions and analyze excerpts at an
uneven pace. While most of my comments convey
for The Blanket's audience the gist of
the Republican-nationalist content, I remind you
that this is but part of Roy's meticulous discourse.
He begins the book, and also each chapter, with
a précis. A sample of this from the start
of the book can be seen at: http://www.iol.ie/%7Erjtechne/xverview.htm
Johnston (1890-1972) of Tyrone smallholder Presbyterian
stock, had three brothers in the Indian Civil
Service. His family supported Home Rule within
a democratic Britain. His 1913 study, Civil
War in Ulster (republished in 1999; edited
by Roy for UCD Press), provides a 'current affairs'
treatment of the Larne gunrunning and its aftermath.
Joe sensibly addressed his fellow Protestants,
advocating law rather than rebellion, urging that
Home Rule should be preferred to Tory manipulation
of Unionists against the Liberals. Joe, a TCD
classics fellow turned economist, inspired by
Horace Plunkett, ran the Dublin University's Co-Op.
Post-Rising, he astutely observed emerging Sinn
Fein leaders who were 'well-read, well-travelled
and earnest' (30) They roused the poor with idealistic
political rhetoric. But, after rallying the 'labouring
classes', SF 'then devoted itself to an object
which could avail them nothing. That was probably
a condition of its receipt of certain funds.'
Joe, who favoured an all-Ireland Home Rule, apparently
suspected already that SF carried within its ranks
two fatal flaws: zealotry and chicanery. The father's
judgment of SF would be repeated by the son over
fifty years later.
with Partition, warning against premature referenda,
Joe early saw that his wishes to better Irish
society could fulfill themselves better in financially-focused
efforts. While he served in the Seanad 1939-54,
he devoted most of his career to economic history,
lecturing, writing, and especially to co-operative
programs. The land reforms attempted by the new
regime post-1922, he reasoned, would not succeed.
Better to place ten farmers on 300 acres where,
in co-operative organisation, they could benefit
from each other's expertise. Instead, the 30 acres
per smallholder redistribution, Joe opined, enticed
the greed of Fianna Fáil's gombeen men.
Families unable to farm their land sold low to
crafty neighbours. Accumulation of wealth back
into the hands of a few resumed. Seeking to escape
this bourgeoisie trap, Joe developed an 'obsession'
that his son shared: they hated 'the negative
effects of Partition, which had produced the Catholic-hegemonist
environment in the "republic" within
which critical thought was decidedly unwelcome,
and the obverse Protestant-hegemonist northern
scene.' (157-8) By 1960, Joe had to emigrate to
London to support himself and his family.
then, his son would accompany him. Roy, born 1929,
early in the Promethean student group at St Columba's
College in suburban Dublin continued his father's
drive to better himself and others through democratically
leftist, people-oriented, anti-statist strategies,
But, Roy began early also to lean towards European
Marxism. Father and son may have long differed
on the economic methods employed, but both sought
to transform post-colonial malaise into innovative
energy. Fighting partition, sectarianism, and
parochialism would impel activist Roy to change
his nation no less than did the careful labours
of his father, a scholar who longed for the farm.
in the late 1940s, furthering Promethean plans,
entered TCD. Fellow Marxists, he found there,
too readily gripped what he calls 'the dead hand
of Stalinism'. The student left at university
fell into a gap between their Marxist vision and
'the intellectual requirements of Irish radical
political practice as it then was. Into this vacuum
flowed the resurgent IRA of the subsequent decade.'
(97) Working from the mid-1950s with particle
physics on the Continent, Roy began to communicate
with scientists through international conferences
and networks. Why, he mused, could not a similar
support system strengthen the beleaguered Irish
quotes Greaves' 1956 diary with its demonstrative
anecdote. 'When some Party activist held an open
air meeting Falls Road and Shankill Road hooligans
combined to attack him. "Working class unity
at last" says Roy....' (153) The dogmatic
Marxism then on offer for earnest Irish radicals,
unfortunately, complicated arrangements across
the Iron Curtain. The party line led to the Kremlin.
At TCD, Roy had gravitated towards the considerable
pull exerted by C. Desmond Greaves. British Communists,
logical allies of the tiny Irish far-left, sought
a common front with which to tackle the 'national
question'. The Connolly Association represented
the progressive interests of the Irish in Britain,
but their Irish counterparts lacked CA's experience.
Their Dublin organisation, the Irish Workers'
League, predictably became in the 50s still more
mired in its internal Cold War contradictions.
Unable to turn away from the Man of Steel, Irish
leftists unblinkingly entered into the hypnotic
spell exerted by the Comintern upon their British
and European comrades. 'There was, however, nowhere
else for the aspirant radical critical intellectual
to go. The present writer stuck with in, and fought
for a genuine critical view where and when he
continued to influence Roy, who combined his scientific
experimentation with high-energy particle physics
first in France and then at the Dublin Institute
of Advanced Studies. Post-Hungary 1956, the Stalin
monolith began to crack, and at least in theory
a 'broad Left' Irish alliance was mooted. The
CPGB and the CA bickered, Roy continued to shuttle
back and forth at one point working in reservations
systems design for Aer Lingus like so many
of his peers between Dublin and London. There,
Roy managed to mingle socially with both the Labour
trade activists with whom he organised and the
Communists who, of course, despised their liberal
neighbours and so drank at another pub. This diplomatic
skill would be honed in the 60s and 70s, and severely
tested as the splits widened.
Roy had initiated correspondence with the IRA
chief-of-staff Seán Cronin. The Northern
campaign of the late 1950s having failed by 1962,
Greaves that November emerged with Roy credits
him as the 'prime mover' the "'Civil
Rights Movement in Northern Ireland" concept'.
(168) By summer 1963, the CA's Anthony Coughlan
(who receives extensive acknowledgment throughout
for his own archival and critical contributions
to Roy's study) and Roy joined others first gathered
around QUB and then TCD who had convened the think-tank/
ginger-group The Wolfe Tone Society. Johnston
notes that Cathal Goulding did not seek to ally
this "Directory' with the then-'vestigial'
IRA. SF minutes 'show only "fuzzy" knowledge"
of WTS. (174) Still, even then, harbingers of
RM internal struggle lurk. Seán MacStiofain's
1975 memoirs red-bait Roy. He and Coughlan have
often since been suspected of being suspiciously
London-based, if purportedly Irish, agents (or
higher ranks) of the Kremlin's puppets, of the
British Communists as mastered under Moscow-loyal
Greaves. Such allegations against Roy and Anthony,
since MacStiofain's 70s memoir, have haunted many
histories of the IRA.
pains to explain, Roy's book for the first
time in print that I am aware realigns the
plot. Cathal Goulding and Seamus Costello, among
others, had prior to Roy's 'time of active association
with the movement' sought to pull republican activists
towards the left, if for the physical-force traditionalist
MacStiofain too far towards the East. Roy does
not blame MacStiofain (who lord knows incurred
plenty of blame by the 1970s) himself. He surmises
that the future Provo had been misled regarding
Roy and Anthony by Goulding's own tentative inquiries
towards Moscow when Seán and Cathal were
in jail in 1953 and then when Goulding as Chief-of-Staff
contacted the Soviet Embassy in 1963 regarding
support. (Cathal was told that Moscow backed only
governments, not 'revolutionary movements'!) (171)
with the radical left complicated the loyalties
within this embryonic RM. Roy resisted a 'simplistic,
two-class model of traditional Marxism'. George
Russell, Plunkett, and father Joe J. perhaps
subconsciously at the time for Roy wished
to involve 'worker-managers and self-employed'
along with the usual ranks of 'workers'. (178)
Co-ops encouraged, and represented, democracy
at social, industrial, and commercial levels.
The State did not have to loom so large.
attraction, by mid-1964, moved Roy away from the
IWL into taking a leading role in the WTS. Goulding
'wanted help in converting the IRA from an illegal
army into a democratically disciplined political
movement reflecting the interests of the working
people as a whole, broadly based on the socialist
ideas of Marx, as adapted by Connolly to the Irish
situation.' (179) The 'politicising republicans'
in Roy's vision could ally with trade unions,
rural co-ops, smallholding farmers, Gaeltacht
initiatives, and local 'Civil Liberties' advocates.
Unfortunately in this reviewer's opinion, the
1964 SF Ard Fheis proposal for 'a national scheme
of resistance to foreign takeover of land and
industry' remained rhetoric. Ambitious plans,
few to carry them out.
'overlay of militarist irrendentism' that marred
the IRA, Johnston emphasises, weakened the 'activist
visionaries' among these progressive republicans.
Fenian-IRB veneration could press as dead a hand
upon the RM as that of an embalmed Lenin. A couple
hundred volunteers were canvassed. Whether they
all accepted the leftist shift, or whether 'sea-green
incorruptibles' were instructed to support it,
appears uncertain. (188) The Army Council, under
the presumed sway of Goulding and Costello, Roy
estimates, tried to 'impose' its '"advanced
thinking'". (188) Many who joined the Dublin
unit, Johnston avers, sought 'romantic militarism',
or a sense of adventure' (185) Roy starting in
March 1965 serves 'on behalf of [Goulding's] HQ
staff' as the IRA's 'political education officer'.
This same spring, the organising and ideological
roots of what a year later would blossom as NICRA
began by WTS and trade unions to be planted.
seeds of conflict within the RM would also soon
sprout. The June 1965 Special Ard Fheis under
its 'civil society enabling proposals' had considered
that 'the essential work of the republican movement
at present is the development of political and
agitational activities and the infiltration and
direction of other organisations' (188) Although
this was amended to 'the giving of leadership,
internally and externally', the implication remains.
Added to this directive was 'the involvement of
other organisations in struggles for limited objectives
as a preparation for an ultimate confrontation
with the British Government on the national issue.'
(189) Johnston insists that encouragement, indirect
or direct, for 'traditional elitist "army"
thinking' should never exist alongside 'non-violent
initiatives such as the NICRA, by those who were
at this time promoting the politicisation process.'
(188-189) He concludes that the [Neil]'Blaneyite
approach' of physical-force violence to fight
violence only pushed the RM into sectarian defense
of the 'Catholic ghettoes' and doomed the efforts
of NICRA. These activists, in his family's tradition,
sought inclusive participation. They barred none
on the dubious basis of a suspect class, origin,
creed, or occupation that had on both the republican
and loyalist sides denigrated fellow Irish citizens.
Johnston supported broader fronts of unions, co-ops,
progressives, workers in an all-Ireland campaign
for civil change. He rejected doomed guerrilla
and paramilitary warfare within or against Britain.
With Connolly's 'Ralahine chapter in Labour in
Irish History as a model', Johnston argues, the
solution proves an 'economic democracy' by 'non-violent'
a principled stance allowed Johnston, as the Troubles
began to stir, to remain a RM leader.
secular verities also clashed with sectarian militias
and tribal allegiances, with the Crown and Orangemen,
with Stalinist dogma, and with those within SF
and the IRA who ultimately chanted a rote sum
even if they never admitted it within earshot
republican + Catholic = RM.
Peadar O'Donnell resented the younger republicans;
he suspected their motives. Michael O'Riordain
and Jim Prendergast's miniscule CPI endured, on
the deference granted by the International Brigades'
credentials of these two veterans. In Belfast,
Betty Sinclair doggedly managed to lobby for CR
along with Communism. However, the lapse into
sectarianism soon severed CP & IWP ties with
working-class Belfast Protestants. Roy's hopes
for a non-sectarian NLF that defied Partition
faded. CR, in his judgement, mutated into a 'crypto-nationalist'
issue. (242) Protestant trade unions found their
idealistic calls for 'one man, one vote' and fairness
in local government elections ignored. Polarisation
returned. CA & IWP pondered alliances with
organised labour and NICRA, but again the disorganisation,
ideological fluctuations, and comparatively small
amounts of reliable activists discouraged the
evolution of the RM 'into an all-Ireland democratic
Marxist party having broad-based support from
workers, working management, working owner-managers
and self-employed.' (228) The end of the Prague
Spring hastened the irrelevance of the CPNI and
IWP. Greaves' own loyalty to Moscow, even after
the tanks crushed the Czech protestors, accelerated
Johnston's direction towards other mentors.
National Liberation Front appealed, but by now
it was too little, too late. In hindsight, Roy
notes that if the split had happened earlier between
Costello's eager militarists and Goulding's radical
progressives, the IRA and SF would have emerged
more forcefully to represent socialist republicanism
as the movement's ideological foundation and practical
application. The momentum that goaded marchers
from Belfast to Derry and knowingly provoked the
attackers at Burntollet , in Johnston's opinion,
would have been halted. The slippery slope into
shooting could have been prevented. Costello seems
to have played his cards close to his vest, and
Johnston appears to have believed in the later
1960s that Costello was among the politicising
republicans more than those who favoured a return
to the armed campaign. He is the impetus, so it
seems, for the continuation of the Officials with
physical force despite the split. Johnston also
proposes that the Provos, if the reactionaries
had been outflanked and cast out before 1969,
would not have been able to capitalise on the
perceived impotence of Goulding's politicised
there is a contradiction, for Johnston assumes
that the political campaign would have united
communities and overcome divisions. His expectation
of a dream that could have been fulfilled makes
his memoir poignant. Despite his even-handed,
determinedly detached point-of-view his regret
lingers. One wonders if three thousand lives could
have flourished, if countless more Irish and British
men and women could have been spared pain. The
collapse of the political resolution to the 'national
question' cripples us still. He admits that NICRA,
WTS and ICCL all acted individually more than
collectively. When political progress began in
the North, no peaceful, democratic, all-Ireland
coalition had developed to take advantage of this
opportunity. 'Fianna Fáil irredentism took
over, with a strong Catholic-nationalist flavour'.
(232) Whether this regression to armed conflict
could have been thwarted by a broad-front, in
my reading of Johnston's narrative, remains a
conundrum. Republicans and nationalists could
not control the opposition who itched to jump
into battle, Among the RM ranks as well as across
the barricades, the border, and the Irish Sea
many paced and drilled with no patience for Kumbaya
in the book, Johnston also acknowledges dirty
tricks. The role of the British intelligence operatives
here to discredit the soon-to-be 'official' IRA
cannot be denied, and unimpeachable evidence during
this period of cause and effect can elude not
only present historians and recollecting participants.
As Johnston analyses the general cause and effect,
the 'armed B-Special pogroms of August 1969' incited
reaction by hardline militants who lacked political
direction, espoused sectarian prejudice, and who
regressed into roles that their grandfathers had
enacted on the stages of Larne in 1913 and the
street theatre of 1920-22 Belfast. (232)
about the nationalist politicians on both sides
of the border? Blaney receives contempt for playing
into such guerrilla posturing. Bernadette Devlin,
a product of the student anarchist QUB 'ultra-left,'
lacked the skills needed to represent the Civil
Rights movement. Paris with its youthful Maoist
poses inspired Peoples Democracy. NICRA's moderation
dimmed its spotlight. Riots, moratoriums, and
power demanded by any means necessary trumped
marchers patiently lobbying for tenants' rights,
community action, and cross-community efforts.
1968 Ard Fheis managed to defend the IRA and SF
against its own rebels, but next year's split
now became inevitable. The 'IRB military conspiratorial
tradition' displayed the 'futility of military
structures in politics'. (251) Refusal of constitutional
options, adulation of abstentionism, and most
of all the hobbling fetish of 'the physical force
as principle' Fenian culture doomed Coughlan and
Johnston's construction of a 'democratic popular
culture, based on class alliances and common interests'
rather than 'pathology' of a reactionary RM bitterly
opposed to its own politicisation. (256)
1969 Belfast 'pogrom', Johnston suggests, was
initiated by ultra-loyalists within the RUC. He
estimates that the plans came from the 'top-down'
to aggravate the IRA hardliners. 'To go for the
guns was what the enemy wanted'. (262)
finds in the CR demands published in the United
Irishman in September 1969 parallels with
the GFA. The Officials defended their political
ideals, cross-border vision, and Marxist theory.
He offers an intriguing aside. In late 1969 amidst
what would result in the Arms Trial, he muses
that Fianna Fáil feared its exposure as
a 'moneyed mafia'. Land deals, such as those Joe
had earlier protested in the 1930s and 40s, now
favoured urban developers. (As an aside, consider
how much Haughey and his cronies incur condemnation
for the demolishment of so much of Georgian Dublin.
Not to mention later at Wood Quay.) Grassroots
politicking systems rotted as the working class
remained enthralled by FF. This scenario reminds
me of John McGahern's stories. I recall his old
IRA veterans who simmer with controlled rage against
the 26 Counties, yet were among the first to serve-as
did his father in life as well as his fictional
doppelganger- in the Garda Síochana. Among
such willingly co-opted malcontents, FF remained
if only by default or habit in local power. Such
a cosy status quo could be toppled by a revived
leftist movement that, as it had threatened to
do in the 1920s and 1930s, rapped against Leinster
democracy and the threat of a united left, Roy
holds, sparked a vicious reprisal against politicising
republicans. Thus, by implication, the token resolutions
or clandestine shipments northwards from Leinster
House towards the Provo QM's Whether intended
as symbolic or not, the association of FF with
the republicans, cynically and neatly, bolstered
Haughey's long-term success and the claims of
his party to republican bona fides. Who suffered?
Not only the Catholics in the ethnic cleansing
that followed in Belfast, but those who sought
to erase such identifications in the name of an
inclusive, secularised, and democratically socialist
Ireland. I note that neither 'two nations' thesis
nor stagist theory- of which comes first, national
unification or the proletariat's triumph- enters
Johnston's analysis. Although he does cite Brendan
Clifford, whose Athol Press has published Marxian
studies that can be traced to the same influences
within which Johnston and Coughlan worked, Roy
avoids rarified aridity.
should Marxist policy direct militant strategy?
The debate deepened rifts within the RM. Johnston
determines that by March 1970, Goulding 'wanted
Belfast to be undefended, and to use the ensuing
situation politically to get the B-Specials disarmed.
This however gave the Provisionals the role of
"defenders of the people".' (284) The
subsequent charge that the 'official IRA' gave
away their arms to a 'Free Wales Army'- Johnston
guesses this to be another British product of
the 'dirty tricks department'- seems to arise
from the turmoil of this spring. (286) The fatal
attraction between the top-down military structure
wished for by the physical-force proponents and
the Stalinist CPI doomed the left-republican alliance.
Johnston's broad front broke into its components:
PD, NICRA, 'orange communists', Provos and Officials.
Both what Johnston labels the Stalinist and the
Fenian tendencies shared pathological sources
in 'party-driven machine-voting in a context where
a broad knowledge-based movement was most needed'.
(311) CR activists were shunted aside, and the
elitist qualities endemic to the traditional IRB-derived
republican hauteur of the martyred few who acted
on behalf of the workers are, Johnston reminds
us, 'the antithesis of that projected for the
type of left-wing democratic activist organisation
that since 1965 or so we had been trying to build'.
(314) He adds: 'This was the beginning of the
end or my association with the movement.'
the actual resignation occurred remains somewhat
hazy. Still, after the start of 1972, amidst the
Senator Barnhill 'episode' and the Aldershot 'incident',
the Officials had played the same hand as their
Provo former comrades. The gun had silenced the
ideals for which Roy had spent nearly a decade
in attempting to move republicans towards a non-sectarian
NLF. Costello's admiration for Stalin 'because
he used to rob banks for the Bolsheviks' reveals
the level to which those who had once claimed
to have shared Johnston and Coughlan's principles
had regressed. (322) I note as a relevant aside
that Johnston here also cites Tomás Mac
Giolla who claimed that Tim Pat Coogan and some
of his fellow Irish Press journalists were implicated
along with Jack Lynch's government in diverting
the CR struggle into the Official-Provo splits.
had pulled out, he recalls, in January, yet continued
to remain on good terms with his RM colleagues,
and assisted their 'internal education programme';
the internment of so many republicans, the 'perceived
military objectives', and the fact that so many
other republicans were on the run made continued
involvement untenable. (322) At this time, he
also parted with his early mentor C. Desmond Greaves.
Greaves had always rejected Johnston's effort
to advance Marxism within republicanism. Greaves
opposed also Johnston's wish to expand neo-Marxist
tenets to welcome 'direct democratic control over
the capital investment process by the people concerned'.
(323) Greaves, as with so many orthodox radicals
(quite an oxymoron?), could not allow the state
to be 'a referee and not a player' in a 'market
socialism model'. Johnston, rightly, traces the
course of his ideas into the left-green convergence
that inspire today's Green Party and, in Johnston's
view, a broad-minded and typically inclusive rather
than exclusive vision that he advocates as the
truest rendition of Connolly's vision for Ireland.
Again, the continuity of Joe Johnston's promotion
of Connolly's writings in the 1920s to working-class
night students in economics at TCD with Roy's
own commitment to a socialist coalition that sought
not to stoke class war but commercial peace shows
that father and son remained faithful to their
telling anecdote: Joe to the Irish Times
had written in December 1970 that if Nelson's
column had not been blown up but replaced ceremoniously
with the figure of Wolfe Tone, the significance
of this change on Dublin's main street would have
been obvious, and would have furthered national
unity more than the prank of a few republican
rascals under the cover of night.
in the 1970s, Roy assisted the CPI with his efforts
to integrate technological transfer of information
between scientists from across the globe. Greaves,
O'Riordain, Eoin Ó Murchú united
to undermine Johnston's project. Joe's Dublin
University Co-Op Society, perhaps fittingly, also
died out in 1972, the year of Roy's departure
from the Officials. In 1978, the last gasp of
the Wolfe Tone Society expired.
Associates, a commercial brokerage for scientific
innovation, engaged Johnston in the next decade.
From advising Labour, he moved into what would
become the Green Party. Here, his dream, first
conceived in the 1950s in France when he worked
as a particle physicist, returned. The post-colonial
model provided his next challenge. Science seemed
too focused on the internal, while the imperial
State's demands for technological growth appeared,
in the Irish history of scientific and technological
endeavours, to conflict. Cultural upheaval from
pluralist tendencies worsened the stress for Irish
scientists. The example of the Irish-born Marxist
scientist JD (father of Martin) Bernal provided
the best example of such tension that drove creative
minds away towards success across the Irish Sea.
The lessons learned, or those that could be avoided,
from study of the Irish experience could, Johnston
reasoned, educate Third World policy makers and
1990s found Johnston increasing his Green Party
involvement. Its ideological exchanges allowed
room for his re-thinking of the 'marginalised'
aspects of past efforts to match idealism with
pragmatism- anarcho-syndicalists, Guild socialists,
co-operativists- that in the collapse of Stalinist
centralized idolatry of the State might enrich
future creativity among communities. Roy reminds
leftists that if Marxism is to remain at all relevant,
abandonment of 'top-down' schemes that perpetuate
'a centralist imperial system' must replace foolish
dogma and heartless doctrine. He remains active,
writing to Gerry Adams about the 1994 cease-fire,
contributing to the Opsahl Commission, urging
reform of the Orange Order, advising cultural
minorities in the North. He hopes for a continuation
of George Gilmore's Republican Congress, extended
into the dimensions of decentralised Green participation
and grassroots decision-making consensus.
In his conclusion, Johnston summarises the failures
of the RM. The 'creative fusion' of Marxist theory
with Fenian traditions fizzled under the hand
of Goulding. Putting Seán Mac Stiofáin
in charge of military intelligence in 1967 gave
him the chance to undermine the Republican Clubs
in the North and to prepare for the re-emergence
of the Provos in response to the B-Specials 1969
'pograms'. This played into the wishes of the
hard-core Unionist leaders. The pace of the democratic
left for social reform under the CR banner was
'forced' by the PD in January 1969 at the Derry
march, 'which "trailed the coat" through
a series of Antrim Protestant towns, and led to
the Burntollet ambush'. (411) Sectarian polarisation
pushed the CR into the Catholic ghettoes, generating
a chain of events leading to what the Provos manipulated,
military reaction. It also pleased the Unionists
and the British forces desired: 'a military campaign
which could be contained, with the working people
of the North increasingly divided on sectarian
lines, perpetuating British rule' (412) In this
book, a phrase that captures the struggle from
a veteran Irish leftist: the work to achieve the
just society akin to the effort to make 'water
lists seven lessons, from the vantage point of
this book's writing in 2005.
After military experience, activists find it
difficult to adapt to democratic politics.
the State as a referee rather than a player
in the economic game.
the players- individuals or organisations- accountable
to all who depend upon the economic firm.
up fair-trade rules, foster know-how in post-imperial
situations, and encourage co-op and credit approaches.
local democratic government within national
and international frameworks. Avoid government
by 'in-groups' as has crippled India, Ireland,
South Africa, Israel/Palestine: all of these
states have 'derived from pathologies rooted
in British imperial culture'. 
land ownership under local authority, then lease
to 're-zoned users'; long-term, 'private ownership
of land needs to be questioned'.
economies through sustainable resources.
book concludes with thirteen appendices dealing
with various aspects of Joe's involvement with
economic issues, his publications, his political
efforts, and Roy's scientific analyses. Comprehensive
bibliographies and source references follow for
the two Johnstons. While the indices are not fully
complete, they selectively guide readers to frequently
relevance of Johnston's lifework, and that of
his father, reminded me of the debates that continued
in a recent issue of
many republicans courageously stood up to the
Brits, verbally and physically, and paid a huge
personal price. Sadly, it must be acknowledged
that, when it came to speaking out against a
leadership which sold out the movement and lied
through its teeth, too many were found wanting.
The people of no principle were able to do what
they did because their followers were more loyal
to personalities than ideology.
Adams' reflections serve as a testimony to Roy
Johnston and many other activists who dared to
stand up for their own convictions against what
became the mainstream, and eventually the safe
and predictable and politically correct conventional
wisdom. While many readers of The Blanket
will disagree with Dr Johnston's precise diagnoses
for the ills that continue to ail a divided Ireland
not only in sovereignty but economic and cultural
and practical control, the suggestions that he
proposes to cure the patient, to resurrect the
ideals for which he and his father have devoted
the past century and more to healing, deserve
our careful reflection. In our capitalist hegemony,
the decades of Roy and Joe Johnston's thought
and action offer alternatives for hope.