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Obituary : John McGuffin - Death of an anarchist

The members of Socialist Democracy would like to note, with sadness, the death of John McGuffin.

A founder member of Peoples Democracy, forerunner of Socialist Democracy, John, the spokesperson for Anarchism in the North of Ireland, soon parted company with the organisation of Marxist sympathisers that arose out of the early Left Civil Rights organisation.  However we remained connected through John’s unremitting reportage of the hypocrisy and oppression involved in the continuation of the Northern state.  He wrote prolifically.  Two of his books, the Guinea pigs, detailing British torture of internees and Internment, detailing the history of its use, remain classics (at the time John had been the only Protestant internee).

A man with a wicked sense of humour and a love of practical jokes, John was full of kindness.  I remember especially a period in the ‘70s when I was jailed under a system of ‘Internment by remand’ and John went to great trouble to get me reading material.  Much more recently I posted my first article on the internet.  The first response, after a 20 year gap, was from John McGuffin, with congratulations and praise for ‘his good friend John’.

Perhaps the greatest significance of John’s life was in its beginnings.  A schoolmate of John Taylor, now Lord Kilcooney, he had the opportunity to become a part of the unionist establishment.  He rejected that and turned instead to the purity and honesty of revolution.

John’s death reminds us that the beginnings of the troubles in the North of Ireland lay not in Catholic revolt but in a youth revolt that crossed sectarian boundaries and that for the unionist bigots the first priority was not to smash Catholic dissent but to break the young Protestants who had embraced the flag of revolution.

They never succeeded in breaking John.

John McAnulty



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