Heidegger the Nazi: Reply to John Minahane

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20/07/2015 by socialistfight

John Minahane

John Minahane

Heidegger the Nazi: Reply to John Minahane

by Gerry Downing 20/7/2015

This is the second in the series on Marxist Philosophy in Socialist Fight. The first, in issue 19, finished thus:

“Heidegger’s philosophical outlook found its logical expression in the death camps. His ‘philosophy’ contributed to human understanding of its relationship to itself and to nature in general what the Holocaust contributed to human progress. It poisoned European leftism with bourgeois individualism, the reactionary outlook of ‘existentialism’ so beloved by Jean-Paul Sartre and others ever since.”

This brought a response from the Editor of the Heidegger Review:


To the Editor.

Gerry Downing misrepresents the philosophy of Martin Heidegger by saying that it “found its logical expression in the death camps” (SF 19). I have shown that this idea is a misrepresentation in Heidegger Review No. 1. What found its logical expression in the death camps was high technology linked to the modern ideology of conquest, exemplified by Great Britain, which was Hitler’s model. (See Mein Kampf, where he repeatedly makes clear his desire for an agreed division of spoils between the two great predators, Germany in the Euro-Russian zone and Britain in India/China/Africa etc.)
Heidegger’s thinking did not cultivate aggression. There is no logic in connecting him with death camps. It would be more logical to make that connection with John Locke, whom Downing cites favourably, since he was an important ideologist of colonial plunder.
John Minahane, Editor, Heidegger Review.

Heidegger as a Nazi

It is first necessary to establish that Heidegger was a Nazi, a full-blown enthusiast for Hitler. He remained a member of the Nazi party from 1933 to 1945 and never disowned (but did falsely downplay) his Nazism and never apologised for it. And he lied copiously about his involvement to the post war de-Nazification commission, saying for instance that he never used the ‘Sieg Heil’ salutation. This is just one instance of him using it in an address to 600 unemployed workers drafted into the ‘National Socialist labour service’, i.e. slave labour work camps, in January 1934:

“This will … must be our innermost certainty and never-faltering faith. For in what this will wills, we are only following the towering will of our Führer. To be his loyal followers means: to will that the German people shall find again, as a people of labour, its organic unity, its simple dignity, and its true strength; and that, as a state of labour, it shall secure for itself permanence and greatness. To the man of this unprecedented will, to our Führer Adolf Hitler-a three-fold ‘Sieg Heil!” [1]

Heidegger’s Being and Time, published in 1927

Since the publication of his personal Black Notebooks over a year ago his anti-Semitism is beyond dispute. But it was well known by the late 1980s and despite that he has legions of academic and political defenders who poo-hoo the evidence, seek to play it down by saying it was simply a youthful aberration and that his philosophy is, in any case, a totally different thing, even if he was a Nazi for a short period. The oft repeated claim is that he was the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. That a Nazi can be hailed thus reflects on the ‘philosophy’ of those who make this outrageous claim rather than conferring any authenticity on Heidegger. Alex Steiner reveals that Heidegger said in a lecture on 1 December 1949:

“Agriculture is now a motorized food-industry—in essence, the same as the manufacturing of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps, the same as the blockade and starvation of the countryside, the same as the production of the hydrogen bombs.” [2]

This shows an appalling contempt for the victims of Hitler’s death camps. Steiner then goes on the show that his differences with Hitler were on the question of the use of technology, as if we could all retreat back to the Bavarian Alps or the Sliabh Luachra mountains in north Cork:

‘A decisive question for me today is: how can a political system accommodate itself to the technological age, and which political system would this be? I have no answer to this question. I am not convinced that it is democracy.’[3]

Having set up an ahistorical notion of technology as an absolute bane to the existence of mankind, Heidegger then explains how he conceived of the Nazi solution to this problem:
‘ … I see the task in thought to consist in general, within the limits allotted to thought, to achieve an adequate relationship to the essence of technology. National Socialism, to be sure, moved in this direction. But those people were far too limited in their thinking to acquire an explicit relationship to what is really happening today and has been underway for three centuries.’[4]

It is thus beyond dispute that at the time of his death Heidegger thought of Nazism as a political movement that was moving in the right direction. If it failed then this was because its leaders did not think radically enough about the essence of technology. [5]

It seems to me that to fulfill Heidegger’s prescription for National Socialism a great deal more people would have to be offed than the Holocaust did because the whole of humanity cannot now be sustained in the countryside. As Pol Pot found out. I don’t know how John Minahane has squared that circle.

Steiner’s works in the WSWS of April and November 2000 supply a great deal more proof than this to leave the issue of Heidegger’s Nazism beyond doubt. But perhaps his defenders are correct and there is no connection between his politics, which developed from right wing Catholic populism to fascism, and his philosophy. These include the existentialist Jean Paul Sartre the structuralists, post-structuralist and deconstructionists, Claude Levi-Strauss, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. And the postmodernists Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard. Not to mention his Jewish student lover Hannah Arendt before the war (she was dismissed from her post at the university where Heidegger was the Nazi-appointed Rector of Freiburg in 1933 with Husserl and others with no protest Heidegger). She resumed her relationship with him after the war and in 1971 wrote a sycophantic essay Heidegger at Eighty, defending him and excusing his Nazism.
In 1987 a book Heidegger and Nazism, by Victor Farias, was published in France, (one of the major sources of Steiner’s work) and the game for defending Heidegger was up for any serious scholar. The Amazon review claims:

Front Cover

“Farias’ evidence shows him to be the only major philosopher whoreely embraced Nazism … “Heidegger and Nazism” transforms the setting in which Heidegger’s standing will henceforth be assessed. From his earliest intellectual and emotional influences to the last posthumously published interview with Der Spiegel, Heidegger’s connection to National Socialism is shown to be a matter of conviction rather than necessary compromise as apologists still contend.”

Of course Arendt was no Nazi herself and neither were/are the above mentioned, nor is John Minahane so why the defence of the Nazi monster’s philosophy? It is simply an attempt to find a substitute for Marxism from those petty bourgeois intellectuals who have lost faith in the working class to make revolution and so need to rationalise their own and humanity’s oppression by global finance capital and its agents throughout society. It must be galling for them to discover that their efforts are built on sand and Farias can demolish them so comprehensively in this great scholarly work.

So what was Heidegger’s philosophy?

Let me correct a false impression I may have given in the reference to René Descartes (1596-1650) in SF 19: “Spinoza opposed Descartes’s mind–body dualism and famously postulated the monist idea that thought and its extension (nature) are one substance”. Readers may think that Descartes’s philosophy was therefore a big mistake and wrongly conclude that his famous dictum “Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am) is simply the ravings of a crude idealist philosopher. And many then and since have charged him with just this, and there is a grain of truth in the charge.

But the phrase does not mean that he exists because he thinks. It means that reason is the essence of humanity, a very bold and revolution postulate whilst the Inquisition still burned, impossible anywhere except in liberal Holland (and Ireland for very different reasons) and even there very dangerous. Descartes is correctly regarded as one of the great progressive philosophers of the Enlightenment, the individual who first began to drive out scholasticism and metaphysics from their stultifying position in Church-dominant Western thought. Alex Steiner defends the mechanical sciences thus:

“We must view the mechanical science launched by Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes and Newton as a necessary moment in the history of rational thought about the world. Heidegger views the advent of modern science merely as a negative, as a procedure that takes us away from the immediate certainty of the intuitive. Here once more is the heart of the problem with Heidegger’s intention of returning to the primordial. He identifies the certainty of immediate intuition with truth. But Hegel already pointed out a long time ago that there is no such thing as a purely immediate intuition, i.e., one that is uncontaminated with mediation. ‘The antithesis between an independent immediacy of the content or of knowing, and, on the other side, an equally independent mediation that is irreconcilable with it, must be put aside, first of all because it is a mere presupposition and an arbitrary assurance.’” [6]

What we are seeing here is the irrationalism of Heideggerian thought, an essential feature of Nazism. He illustrates further this reactionary position with an attack on Galileo, Alex Steiner again quoting Heidegger:

“It becomes a decisive insight of Galileo that all bodies fall equally fast, and that the differences in the time of fall derive only from the resistance of the air, not from the different inner natures of the bodies or from their own corresponding relation to their particular place. Galileo did his experiment at the leaning tower in the town of Pisa, where he was professor of mathematics, in order to prove his statement. In it bodies of different weights did not arrive at precisely the same time after having fallen from the tower, but the difference in time was slight. In spite of these differences and therefore really against the evidence of experience, Galileo upheld his proposition. The witnesses to this experiment, however, became really perplexed by the experiment and Galileo’s upholding his views. They persisted the more obstinately in their former view. By reason of this experiment the opposition toward Galileo increased to such an extent that he had to give up his professorship and leave Pisa. Both Galileo and his opponents saw the same ‘fact.’ But they interpreted the same fact differently and made the same happening visible to themselves in different ways.” [7]

Bishop John Buckley, Diocese of Cork and Ross and Michael O'Flynn at Farranferris at the unveiling of new plans for the campus in 2011.

Bishop John Buckley, Diocese of Cork and Ross (right) who taught both John Minahane and Gerry Downing  at Farranferris when we were there between 1963-68. Photo: Tony O’Connell Photography

You will recall, John, that we had a science teacher in our secondary school, Farranferris in Cork, whom we affectionately dubbed ‘Picnic’. One day in the science lab during the Galileo lesson he conducted an experiment. He produced a glass vacuum tube about eighteen inches long with a feather at the bottom. He ran a little motor to evacuate the tube of its air and then sealed it. Then he inverted it and, to our amazement, the feather fell from top to bottom like a stone. Galileo was absolutely correct, even though our previous ‘intuition’ told us that a feather could not fall as fast as a stone, now our ‘intuition’ was graphically revealed to us to be a prejudice. I was pleased at the passing of that particular prejudice, Heidegger regrets it and denies it.

You will recall, John, that we had a science teacher in our secondary school, Farranferris in Cork, whom we affectionately dubbed ‘Picnic’. One day in the science lab during the Galileo lesson he conducted an experiment. He produced a glass vacuum tube about eighteen inches long with a feather at the bottom. He ran a little motor to evacuate the tube of its air and then sealed it. Then he inverted it and, to our amazement, the feather fell from top to bottom like a stone. Galileo was absolutely correct, even though our previous ‘intuition’ told us that a feather could not fall as fast as a stone, now our ‘intuition’ was graphically revealed to us to be a prejudice. I was pleased at the passing of that particular prejudice, Heidegger regrets it.

Heidegger had a different view than Adolph of what Nazism should be, he was closer to Ernst Röhm, leader of the Sturm Abteilung (SA, “Storm Battalion”), Ernst Jünger, Gregor and Otto Strasser, Joseph Goebbels, Gottfried Feder and Walther Darré, who were radical Nazis who wanted a second revolution to implement some of the ‘socialism’, in the Nazi name, for the workers. But Hitler now almost had the state in his grasp, President Hindenburg was dying and the second revolutionaries alienated the army (the Reichswehr) and also the big capitalists, who definitely needed those who accepted order and acknowledged the primacy of the law of gravity and science to maintain a modern state. So Heidegger was attacking Hitler from the romantic and irrational right, he realised the danger of the coming confrontation with the second revolution radicals of the lumpen anti-Semitic proletariat and resigned his post in April, just in time to escape assassinations himself in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’, June 30 to July 2, 1934. Goebbels had already jumped ship and was present at the arrest of Röhm.
This is one more illustration of how reactionary was the mysticism of the famous ‘Dasein’ (being, self) [8], supposed lodged in the distant past of pre-Socratic philosophy (Greece before the birth of Socrates in 470 BC), lost in the intervening centuries by false interpretation of the ‘self’ and what it is to be yourself, now rediscovered by himself alone. If that seems ridiculous it is because it is ridiculous. But apparently in Nazi mysticism some traditions did preserve this ancient ‘self’ or being in a true form and one of these was the Cathars of the Languedoc in the south of France, who were apparently the keepers of the Holy Grail. The last of them perished in the mass fires of the Inquisition in 1244 at the end of the so-called Albigensian Crusade. So we are told:

“On March 16, 1944, on the 700th anniversary of the fall of Montségur (the Cathars’ last redoubt – GD), Nazi planes (or ‘a plane’ elsewhere – GD) are reported to have flown patterns over the ruins – either swastikas or Celtic crosses, depending upon the sources. The Nazi ideologist, Alfred Rosenberg was reported to be on board one of the airplanes.” [9]

And that emphasises what a dead-end the ‘greatest philosopher of the twentieth century’ has led modern philosophy, existentialism, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstructionism and postmodernism, all petty bourgeois opponents of Marxism and dialectical materialism, developed to keep the middle classes on the side of finance capital against the global working class in its revolutionary mission to overthrow capitalism and forge a communist future.

We will pursue this theme in future issues, beginning with an examination of the politics and philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre.

Montségur, the Cathars’ last redoubt in 1244


[1] Quoted in Jeff Collins, Heidegger and the Nazis. Totem Books. 2000, p. 26.
[2] Victor Farias, Heidegger and Nazism, Temple University Press, 1989, p. 287
[3] Martin Heidegger, “Only a God Can Save Us”: Der Spiegel interview, Wolin, p. 104
[4] bid.
[5] The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi, Part 1: The Record By Alex Steiner, 3 April 2000
[6] Two letters and two replies on “The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi”, 1 November 2000, Alex Steiner. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2000/11/heid-n01.html
[7] Martin Heidegger, Modern Science, Metaphysics and Mathematics, Basic Writings, Harper and Row, 1977, p. 266.
[8] Wiki, Dasein: Dasein is a German word which means “being there” or “presence” often translated in English with the word “existence”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dasein
[9] Montsegur And The Cathars, Mid-12th Century – Early 13th Century, Peter Vronsky, http://www.ironmaidencommentary.com/index.php/?url=album13_dod/montsegur&lang=eng&link=albums.

Why Socialist Fight is launching a series on Marxist philosophy

By Gerry Downing SF 19 – February March 2015

Lenin (1870-1924) considered that there were three sources and three component parts of Marxism, namely German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism. Socialist Fight has neglected the first of these and so will dedicate a page in each future issue to this question.

Serious Marxists are familiar with the thesis that Marx (1818-83) stood Hegel on his head, philosophically, and replaced the Absolute Idea (God) with nature. But Marx didn’t simply reject Hegel. This in 1873:

“The mystifying side of Hegelian dialectic I criticised nearly thirty years ago, at a time when it was still the fashion…(Those) who now talk large in cultured Germany, to treat Hegel in same way as the brave Moses Mendelssohn in Lessing’s time treated Spinoza, i.e., as a “dead dog.” I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker,”

This introduction seeks to show Marxism as the outcome of the historical development of ALL progressive human thought. We were drawn up sharply by the homage paid to Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) following the publication of his ‘black notebooks’ early in 2014 and the appearance of a journal, The Heidegger Review, in July 2914.
The Editor of The Heidegger Review is John Minahane who was once my best friend in Cork in secondary school and college between about 1966 and 1972. He wrote the editorials and Why Heidegger is Interesting in which he managed to equate the reactionary Superman theory of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) with its ubermensch elitism which logically led to the Nazi Alfred Rosenberg’s [1893-1946] untermensch) with Trotsky’s communist projection that under socialism:

“The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx”. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.” [1]

Blogger Ross Wolfe http://thecharnelhouse.org/ says the following on the Facebook site Aftermath:

“Heidegger was, and remains, the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century. Wittgenstein was, perhaps, a close second. There is the question, however, of whether this is a title one would still want to aspire to in the twentieth century. Indeed, Heidegger himself seemed to recognize that philosophy’s time had passed, that it was over and had to be replaced by an indeterminate thinking.”

At the heart of this debate is philosophical dualism, the idealist proposition that thought and its extension are two separate entities, that the object and the subject are two separate and unconnected phenomena or at least they are not dialectically connected.
This theme runs through the whole of the history of philosophy, challenged historically by ancient dialecticians like Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) who insisted on eternal change in the universe, famously:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice” He believed in the unity of opposites, stating that “the path up and down are one and the same”, all existing entities being characterized by pairs of contrary properties. His cryptic utterance that “all entities come to be in accordance with this Logos” (literally, “word”, “reason”, or “account”) has been the subject of numerous interpretations.” [2]

The Irish philosopher Joannes Scotus Eriugena (c800 – c877, on the Irish five punt note before the Euro was adopted) was condemned by the church as a heretical pantheist, his great philosophy outlawed and his adherents burned at the stake by the Inquisition in France hundreds of years later because he was weakening this separation by seeing God in everything. If God was the motive force of all life it was far too easy to substitute nature for God and become an atheistic materialist. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
“Eriugena’s cosmological account has been criticized for collapsing the differences between God and creation, leading to a heresy later labelled as pantheism”. [3]
Leszek Kołakowski, the Polish Marx scholar, has mentioned Eriugena as one of the primary influences on Hegel’s, and therefore Marx’s, dialectical form. In particular, he called De Divisione Naturae a prototype of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

John Locke, he was a great Enlightenment thinker and also the enforcer of slavery in the American colonies, the Carolinas – in other words a typical bourgeois revolutionist.

John Locke (1632–1704), whilst accepted the existence of God held that reason should be the ultimate judge of all truth. Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583–1648) maintained that revelation was unnecessary because human reason was able to know all the truths requisite for salvation.
John Toland (1670–1722), from Ardagh in the Inishowen Peninsula of Donegal, was much influenced by John Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding. Embracing Locke’s epistemology, Toland viewed reason as a mental faculty. He argued that all parts of the universe were in motion. Additionally, motion was part of the definition of matter and was, therefore, an aspect of its nominal essence. Toland invented the word, ‘pantheist’.

The name to be most obviously associated with the deification of nature is of course, Baruch de Spinoza (1632-77). Deism and pantheism owe their philosophical origin to Toland, Spinoza and Anthony Collins (1676–1729) who accepted Locke’s definition of knowledge. His position is that a person is not expected to believe anything that is not comprehensible by human intellect. [4]
Spinoza opposed Descartes’s mind–body dualism and famously postulated the monist idea that thought and its extension (nature) are one substance. And the dialectic was in his Attributes. The Stanford Encyclopedia again:

“Attributes are at the very heart of Spinoza’s metaphysics. They enable us to understand and talk about an extended world and a thinking world in terms of which we understand bodies and minds. Furthermore, it is due to the relation of attributes to one another and to the one substance that an elegant resolution to the Cartesian mind–body problem is possible.”

Evald Ilyenkov (1924-79, the great Soviet philosopher, in Dialectical Logic defends this monism:
“Hence it inevitably follows logically, as Engels said, ‘that matter remains eternally the same in all its transformations, that none of its attributes can ever be lost, and therefore, also, that with the same iron necessity that it will exterminate on the earth its highest creation, the thinking mind, it must somewhere else and at another time again produce it.’

That was Spinoza’s standpoint, a circumstance that seemingly gave Engels grounds for replying categorically and unambiguously to Plekhanov when he asked: ‘So in your opinion old Spinoza was right in saying that thought and extension were nothing but two attributes of one and the same substance?’ “Of course,” answered Engels, “old Spinoza was quite right”.’

Spinoza’s definition means the following: in man, as in any other possible thinking creature, the same matter thinks as in other cases (other modi) only ‘extends’ in the form of stones or any other ‘unthinking body’; that thought in fact cannot be separated from world matter and counterposed to it itself as a special, incorporeal ‘soul’, and it (thought) is matter’s own perfection. That is how Herder and Goethe, La Mettrie and Diderot, Marx and Plekhanov (all great ‘Spinozists’) and even the young Schelling, understood Spinoza. [6]

Engels (1820-95) outlined the new philosophy of dialectical materialism in this way:

“The perception of the fundamental contradiction in German idealism led necessarily back to materialism, but — nota bene — not to the simply metaphysical, exclusively mechanical materialism of the 18th century. Old materialism looked upon all previous history as a crude heap of irrationality and violence; modern materialism sees in it the process of evolution of humanity, and aims at discovering the laws thereof… In both aspects, modern materialism is essentially dialectic, and no longer requires the assistance of that sort of philosophy which, queen-like, pretended to rule the remaining mob of sciences.” [7]

Heidegger’s philosophical outlook found its logical expression in the death camps. His ‘philosophy’ contributed to human understanding of its relationship to itself and to nature in general what the Holocaust contributed to human progress. It poisoned European leftism with bourgeois individualism, the reactionary outlook of ‘existentialism’ so beloved by Jean-Paul Sartre and others ever since.


[1] The Heidegger Review Issue No 1. Athol books, Feb. ‘14
[2] Wiki, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclitus).
[3] John Scotus Eriugena, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scottus-eriugena/
[4] Extracted from Wiki from Eriugena to Collins.
[5] Spinoza’s Theory of Attributes, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza-attributes/
[6] Evald Ilyenkov, Dialectical Logic, http://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/essays/index.htm
[7] Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ch02.htm

Notes on the ICO/BICO:

ICO maintained the regular publication of “The Communist” magazine from 1967-1986. The journal rarely shied away from controversy with headlines written to attract attention, such as “Is Mao A Fascist?”. Clifford provoke a 15,000+ worded reply from Ted Grant (extract published in his The Unbroken Thread), entitled “A Reply to Comrade Clifford” on the question of the difference between Stalinism and Trotskyism. Clifford would repeatedly return in print to the question of Stalin as with “The Communist” July 1979 “Special Stalin Centenary Issue”.

While the ICO generally took a pro-Chinese and Albanian position in international politics, its views were largely motivated by a defence of Stalin and the Soviet experience. In fact, the ICO undertook an investigation into the development of Maoism, and concluded that it was not a suitable model for an anti-revisionist group because, it claimed, Mao had supported the development of Khrushchev’s ”revisionism”. Anti-revisionist maybe, but the ICO was far from a “Maoist” group. This was clearer when the organisation began to produce an analysis on the issue of partition and its work on the “historic Irish nation” that contradicted any notion of a national liberation struggle existing in modern Ireland. Instead it was argued that there were two distinct people in the isle of Ireland who constituted “two nations” each entitled to the expression of its structural existence.


The change of organisational name from ICO to British and Irish Communist Organisation in 1971 was said to reflect an operational reality with members on both islands. However it also marked a distinct political reorientation that had occurred in the thinking of the ICO leadership after the promotion of its “two nations theory,” a reorientation which led in an increasingly less Marxist direction.

In addition to its original take on the Irish national question, BICO, through its member, Bill Warren, proposed an alternative approach to issues of imperialism. His work argued against the grain that:

the period since the Second World War has been marked by a major upsurge in capitalist social relations and productive forces (especially industrialization) in the Third World; that in so far as there are obstacles to this development, they originate not in current imperialist-Third World relationships, but almost entirely from the internal contradictions of the Third World itself; that the imperialist countries’ policies and their overall impact on the Third World actually favour its industrialization; and that the ties of dependence binding the Third World to the imperialist countries have been, and are being, markedly loosened, with the consequence that the distribution of power within the capitalist world is becoming less uneven. [“Imperialism and Capitalist Industrialization” New Left Review [Sept-Oct 1973]]

This was an analysis that generated many polemical responses and reinforced the questioning of the group’s Marxist credentials which had evaporated as the years progressed.

BICO’s evolving positions, particularly on the Irish national question, were met by dissension from within. Members in southern Ireland who opposed the new direction on the Irish struggle (including Jim Lane) resigned to form the Cork Workers’ Club.

In 1974 more dissidents with the BICO’s policy initiatives, which at the time included support for the Ulster Workers Council Strike, left and formed the Communist Organisation in the British Isles (COBI).

The BICO was never officially disbanded. In the 1990s its members remained prolific publishers, with the Irish Political Review as the direct lineal descendent of British and Irish Communist Organisation publications including Workers’ Weekly and Northern Star. Also in the stable of online and print publications are Labour & Trade Union Review, Church & State, and Problems of Capitalism & Socialism. Clifford and his diminished band of co-thinkers came to work solely through the Ernest Bevin Society, maintaining the publishing outlet of Athol Books, and increasing, having produced over 30 publications, worked through the Aubane Historical Society, which essentially concentrates on the local Aubane and Millstreet area as well as North Cork generally but, through linked sites, still comments on a wider stage.

Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Anti-Revisionism in Ireland


Brendan Clifford

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brendan Clifford (born 1936) is an Irish historian and political activist.


As a young man, Clifford emigrated to the United Kingdom and became involved in left-wing politics. Initially, he was an associate of Michael McCreery, a leader of the Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity,[2] a small British Marxist-Leninist that had left the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1963. Later, he joined the Irish Communist Group which soon split into two factions; Clifford sided with the Maoist faction, which named itself the Irish Communist Organisation (ICO).[3] In 1967, Clifford gave a public speech on the Republican Congress in Wynn’s Hotel, Dublin,[4] at a meeting of the Irish trade union group Scéim na gCeardchumann.[4]

In the early 1970s, he joined the other ICO members in advocating the “two-nations theory” – that the Ulster Protestants formed a separate nation and the Republic of Ireland had no right to force them into a United Ireland against their wishes.[2] Clifford soon became a prolific publisher of material advocating the group’s viewpoint. The ICO later changed its name to the British and Irish Communist Organisation (B&ICO).[5]

He was an active campaigner against Irish nationalism alongside other B&ICO members including his wife Angela Clifford,[6] Jack Lane, Manus O’Riordan and Len Callendar.[5] By the late 1970s, according to historian Richard P. Davis, Clifford and historian Peter Brooke were effectively leading the B&ICO.[7]

In the 1980s, Clifford began campaigning for the organisation of British mainland political parties in Northern Ireland.[8] He was an active member of the Campaign for Equal Citizenship political-advocacy group which advocated this aim.[8] Clifford was strongly against the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement and wrote several pamphlets attacking the agreement and especially the Irish politician John Hume, whom Clifford regarded as a reactionary Irish Nationalist;[9] and Queen’s University Belfast, which Clifford claimed was biased against the Ulster Unionists.[10]

As the B&ICO became inactive in the mid-1980s, he began working through several new groups, including the Aubane Historical Society, an organisation originally intended to be a local history organisation, but later expanded into the role of opposing the “revisionist” movement in Irish history;[11] and the Ernest Bevin Society, the B&ICO’s British branch. In a piece written for The Independent, Clifford argued that Northern Catholics had no interest in a United Ireland and therefore electoral integration was the answer to the Northern conflict: “Opinion polls now confirm what one knew from experience in the Sixties, that most Catholics did not want to join the Republic. That fact is, however, of no electoral consequence”.[12] Clifford also criticised the Irish Republican Army (IRA) campaign of violence as futile: “The IRA wants to revolutionise the Irish State to make it fit for Irish unity. But nothing is less likely than a revolution in the Republic, and all concerned know it”.[12]

Clifford also defended the British Monarchy, arguing it played a socially beneficial role in British society.[13]

Clifford opposed the Gulf War (1990–1991); he was dismayed at Irish academic Fred Halliday‘s support for the conflict and wrote a Bevin Society pamphlet, The New Left Imperialist, that was strongly antagonistic toward Halliday.[14][15]

In the 1990s, Clifford and Lane published several books on Irish history, including Notes on Eire: Espionage Reports to Winston Churchill, 1940–2, an account of Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen‘s World War II intelligence reports to Britain. The book marked an abandonment of the opposition to Irish nationalism that had characterised Clifford’s earlier work.[16] This book provoked some controversy because Clifford argued the Anglo-Irish Bowen was not in any way an Irish writer.[17]

Clifford stated Franco’s rule brought political stability to Spanish society: “Spain evolved under Franco. It is doubtful in the extreme whether the Spanish Republic which he overthrew was capable of evolving”.[18]

Clifford has also argued Britain, not Germany, bears responsibility for starting World War II: “Going over the events of 1939 one can hardly suppress the thought that Britain decided to aggravate Germany over the last national issue remaining from the Versailles arrangement and make it an occasion for war, lest no further opportunity for war should present itself, and the Munich Agreement [(1938)] should prove to be a settlement”.[19]

Discussing the book The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922 – August 1939 in an essay in Notes on Eire, Clifford argues that Hitler’s speeches are “coherent arguments” and claims he can see how Hitler was able to persuade the Germans to follow him.[20]

Clifford also argues that pre-World War II British governments had no interest stopping the Nazi persecution of the Jews and that the importance of the Holocaust in World War II has been exaggerated by modern historians: “the extermination of the Jews was an obscure incident in the hinterland of the German-Soviet War…. The Jews were not being exterminated when Britain declared war. The Jewish question does not figure in the declaration of war. The extermination did not begin until two years into the war, after Britain had succeed in spreading it to Russia. It was unimagined even by the most daring spirits in the SS in the summer of 1939″.[21]

He has also taken issue with Irish histories of the Irish Free State during the Second World War. In a critique of the book Ireland and the League of Nations 1919–1946 edited by Michael Kelly, Clifford claims the book and others reflect non-Irish viewpoints.[22]

Clifford has endorsed David Irving as a historian and argued the charges of Holocaust denial laid against Irving are unjust, stating Irving has not denied that “millions were killed deliberately” by the Nazi government.[23]


P literature.svg This literature-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
  • Clifford, Brendan (1986). Parliamentary Despotism: John Hume’s Aspiration. Belfast, Northern Ireland: Athol Books. OCLC 14129827.
  • Clifford, Brendan (1987). Queen’s: A Comment on a University and a Reply to Its Politics Professor. Athol Books. OCLC 18071899.
  • Clifford, Brendan (22 March 1989). “The Political Impotence That Fuels Rebellion; Brendan Clifford on Ulster’s Resentment at Electoral Exclusion”. The Independent.
  • Clifford, Brendan; Lane, Jack (1999). Notes on Eire: Espionage Reports to Winston Churchill, 1940–2. Aubane, Ireland: Aubane Historical Society. ISBN 978-0-9521081-9-1.
  • Clifford, Brendan (2004). Traitor-Patriots in the Great War: Casement and Masaryk – with a Review of the Rise and Fall of Czechoslovakia (part of the Belfast Magazine series 23). Belfast, Northern Ireland: B. Clifford. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-874157-10-6.

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