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Fourthwrite No. 22

Reviewed by David Jackson

3rd October 2005

To be honest, I don’t feel very comfortable reading magazines like this. The only thing that might make me feel more comfortable about reading them would be some sort of intensive brainwashing about“real” Irish history. I grew up influenced by liberal unionist Tory politics. I regard myself on an emotional level to not be prejudiced against nationalist and republican people. My revolutionary socialist politics allows me to sidestep my lack of empathy to the towering horrors of Irish oppression – yes, this is a little sarcastic. I believe I am lucky in this.

But putting aside immediate impressions, the most striking thing about the magazine’s actual content is its eclecticism. Going beyond local parochialism, there are always a wide variety of subjects covered and usually at least a few articles of interest.

These articles, though, tend to vary wildly in their content and quality. Under the rubric of the Good Friday process, there is a lengthy and thoughtful article by John McAnulty, which I won’t rehash as it deals with themes readers of this website will be familiar with. This is immediately followed by an article on loyalism by Anthony McIntyre, where – in the second paragraph! – Anthony drags in his obsession with bashing the “Trots”, on the apparent grounds that socialists and murderous loyalist bigots share a common thought process. I think that says more about Anthony’s preoccupations than his rhetorical targets.

Later on there are interesting and useful articles on the use of Asbos, Garda corruption and fluoridation. In international news, we have a good piece by Matt Siegfried on the anti-war movement in the US, and, weirdly, a glowing obituary by Alex Robson of Zhang Chunqiao, one of Mao Zedong’s famous “Gang of Four”, which heaps praise on Mao’s disastrous “Cultural Revolution”.

Finally there is an article by Liam O’Ruairc on physical force and militarism. I have read this several times and failed to graso what Liam’s point is. Either he is taking a page to state a few obvious points, or the guy is far too clever for his own good.

Elsewhere the general line seems to be if we can’t have the socialist republic at least we can try and be intelligent about it all, pen in hand. Thoughtful like.

This magazine proves that being right about things is never enough. Style really is a big part of communication and Fourthwrite doesn’t have much. I find it difficult to get past this into the stuff that I’m sure I could learn from the writers of this magazine. The magazine reeks of the powerlessness of small people – unfortunately, because the stuff they don’t like is powerfully nasty, but in the end surprisingly the style is pleading rather than standing up to the lies. The magazine is off-putting as this reader feels that it is talking to a certain community of people – I suppose they must exist – that he feels hopelessly outside of.
But the question of style is not the main point here. At its foundation, Fourthwrite aimed to provide a space for republican and socialist critics of the Good Friday process to discuss politics. It was never clear whether the magazine aimed to be an open forum or the voice of a distinct political current. Since a republican political opposition has failed to emerge, by default it has become an open forum, and it isn’t unsuccessful in this role. While Fourthwrite could be more inviting in style and more focused in content, its main weaknesses are traceable to the general political situation.


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