Final volume of Desmond Greaves’s 2,000,000-word Journal now on the Greaves Archive website 


5 July 2024

Dear Friends,

You may like to know that the final volume, No. 38, of historian and political activist Desmond Greaves’s important two-million-word Journal has now been put on the internet at   My Greaves School Committee colleague Eddie Cowman and I would like  to send you a copy in the accompanying  Attachment in the hope that you may find it of interest.

This last volume covers the three months leading up to Desmond Greaves’s sudden death, on 23 August 1988, in the dining car of the train that was bringing him back to his home in Liverpool following a Connolly Association meeting  in Glasgow the night before. The reader’s knowledge of his impending death adds some poignancy to this volume.

The Editorial Notes at the start of the volume, which I have added as Desmond Greave’s literary executor, outlines the main themes of the Journal for his last three months. This is followed by an Index of Organisations and a Personal Names Index. Then comes the text of the Journal proper, followed by concluding Editorial Notes which give some reminiscence of Greaves’s final meeting in Glasgow by Mrs Patsy Thomson of the Glasgow Connolly Association branch, at whose house he stayed on the night before his death, as well as details of his death, funeral, Will and political wish for the future, which is given below.   

The Greaves Journal, which extends over a fifty-year period with some gap years, is an important historical document for both Irish and British historians of the years it covers. As the leading figure in the Connolly Association in Britain and editor for forty years of its monthly newspaper, the “Irish Democrat”, it was Desmond Greaves who pioneered in the1960s the idea of a civil rights movement as the way to undermine Unionist majoritarianism in Northern Ireland. 

In the 1970s and 1980s he advocated that the British Government should base its Irish policy on working towards Irish reunification with consent in cooperation with the Irish Government.  In those years also he advocated that the political Left in Britain and internationally should oppose European supranational integration in the EU/EC and put the defence of the Nation State and national democracy against the forces of Transnational Finance and Big Capital that sought to undermine these at the heart of any leftwing policy worth the name. 

The Greaves Journal also gives details of the research work that he undertook for his three biographies, “The Life and Times of James Connolly” (1961), “Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution” (1971) and “Sean O’Casey, Politics and Art” (1979), as well as the history “The Irish Transport and General Workers Union – The Formative Years” (1982), which that Union’s Executive commissioned. In this connection the Journal gives interesting detail on interviews that he conducted with such persons as President Eamon De Valera, General Sean MacEoin, Ernest Blythe, Peadar O’Donnell, Roddy, Nora and Ina Connolly, Tom Johnson, Moss Twomey, Tony Woods, Maire Comerford etc. It also carries much information on the Irish community in Britain and on the British Labour movement over the span of Greaves’s life.

The Archive website also carries the text of all but one of Desmond Greaves’s books, his three volumes of published verse and his more important articles, as well as reminiscence about him by several people who knew him. Under the heading “Cognate Articles” it carries material critical of the European Union by the undersigned, written in line with Greaves’s political values.  It also carries the full file of the monthly “Irish Democrat” and its predecessor “Irish Freedom” from the paper’s foundation in 1939 until 2000. New material  written by Greaves that might still have some contemporary interest is being added to the Archive regularly.

Maintaining the Greaves Archive website is the responsibility of the Desmond Greaves Summer School Committee whose current members are: Kevin McCorry (School Director), Owen Bennett, Mick Carty, Anthony Coughlan, Eddie Cowman, Dr Karen Devine, Frank Keoghan, Dr Ruan O’Donnell, Cathal Ó Murchú, Mick O’Reilly, Patricia McKenna, Mary Quigley and Dr Michael Quinn.

The Desmond Greaves School Committee seeks to extend knowledge of Desmond Greaves’s life, work and intellectual legacy and advance the values of national independence and national democracy that he advocated by means of publications, holding public meetings, lobbying Irish political and media personalities, developing appropriate international contacts and holding the annual Greaves Weekend Summer School each September. All those involved in these activities work on an entirely voluntary basis. If you think this work is worth supporting please consider donating to the School and its related activities as well as the maintenance and expansion of this Archive website by clicking on the “Why Donate” button on the site. 

This year’s Desmond Greaves Weekend Summer School, the 34th such event, will be held from Friday to Sunday, 13-15 September next, in the UNITE Trade Union Hall, 55 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin l.  On the Friday evening Peter Ramsay, Professor of Law at the London School of Economics, will speak on “Reconstituting the Nations: Britain and Ireland After Brexit”. On the Saturday morning Dr Michael Quinn, who is writing Desmond Greaves’s biography, will speak on “Desmond Greaves’s contribution to civil rights in. Northern Ireland – a biographical account”. On Saturday afternoon Dr Helena Sheehan of DCU will speak on “The continuing relevance of Marx’s view of social class”, and on the Sunday afternoon Dr Karen Devine of DCU and Horst Teubert of the website will speak at a symposium on “Towards a multipolar world”. Please put these events and dates in your diary and tell others about them. 

Desmond Greaves’s final wish for the future was expressed in a handwritten note which was found on his worktable following his death and which I hope you may find of interest. It seems prescient in the light of current international events nearly forty years after his death. It reads:

“The nation state remains the most effective vehicle for the expression of popular democracy, but is now under threat from the transnational institutions typical of the late 20th century, cultural, economic and military. These have created a species of international imperialism, originating in the old colonialism but reacting back on the former colonising powers much in the same way as repression in Northern Ireland has reacted back to the detriment of British democracy. I would like to see an international campaign for the defence of the nation state as an institution and the extension of national democracy to wherever it is a matter of public demand.”

Yours faithfully

Anthony Coughlan


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