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Left Archive: Marxist Review, Theoretical Journal of the Revolutionary Marxist Group, No.3, Spring 1973 July 19, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Revolutionary Marxist Group.


This document, very kindly donated to the Archive by Mark P and the Socialist Party, is of particular interest. We’ve already considered some material from the Revolutionary Marxist Group, but this expands upon their analysis and during a period of particular change on the further left on the island.

Just to briefly refresh memories, the Revolutionary Marxist Group was, as previously noted:

…an intriguing Trotskyist formation on the Irish left from the 1970s. Never very large it consisted of former members the League for a Workers Republic and Young Socialists.

The contents of this particular document is broad ranging, with essays on ‘The Leninist theory of Party Organisation’ by James Conway, ‘Connolly and the Revolutionary Party’ by D.R O’Connor Lysaght, ‘Class Consciousness and the Leninist Party’ by Ernest Mandel and ‘Once More – Trotsky on Ireland’ by James Conway.

Each is of specific interest in providing a sense of the discussions within the RMG and it’s position as regard other formations. The first engages with the issue of discipline, democracy, factions and so on within the context of the Leninist model of party organisation.

The second considers issues of Connolly and the revolutionary party in conjunction with a critique of the analyses of the British and Irish Communist Organisation.

The third is a reprint of an Ernest Mandel speech while the fourth also engages in part with BICO and the ICO.

Apologies for the quality of the scans. The original was printed in red ink and is very faint in parts.


1. Gerry Barnes - July 19, 2010

I wish to home in on the words “Never very large…” which I think may help to put the RMG and other related groups of the 1970s and other decades in some perspective. No matter how exact its ‘analysis’ of Ireland etc may have been it seems to me that the group’s activities and analyzing were ultimately futile as few people bothered to take notice. Some time in the early 1980s Gralton magazine published a detailed list of left groups in Ireland from the 1920s onward. Some of them had grandiose names but only operated for a year or two and faded forever. It would be interesting to know how many such organisations have never attained a membership of more than 25, and how many have had a membership below that figure.


Mark P - July 19, 2010

A lot of organisations never manage a membership over 25. Some of them because they are crazy or incompetent, others because they were unlucky, most because they were swimming against the tide in terms of historical circumstance.

The RMG probably did attain a membership of more than 25 (no doubt Jim can tell us) but not a vast amount more. It later merged with the remnants of People’s Democracy to form the now microscopic Socialist Democracy. Despite the hard times on which they’ve fallen, it has to be said that People’s Democracy did at one point make a real impact on real world politics.

As far as the content of the document goes, it’s not a bad magazine once you get past the dodgy production values. There’s lots of it I disagree with, and it’s a bit jargon-heavy, but there’s some thought behind some of the articles.

(By the way, Wbs, I strongly suspect that I gave you the above the document rather than Jim – I’m not saying that to look for credit but because I’ll need to get it back off you eventually so I can return it to the SP office!)


WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2010

Ooops, I think you’re right. Apologies. I’ll edit above to make sure there’s a credit and we’ll have to meet up sometime for me to give it back to you.


Mark P - July 19, 2010

No rush.


2. Paul Doran - July 19, 2010

FF & FG will tell you that they have 3000-4000 members , likewise Labour will tell of their grossly inflated figures, I ‘m sure if you were to look at movements in the past, Most of the revolutionary movements had low numbers, but effected great changes,It is not the numbers that count but what activity they can effect.Take the Communist party in Spain for example,they have very low numbers pre 33, but in 36/7 they had thousands.


LeftAtTheCross - July 19, 2010

FG claims 35,000 members:


FF claims 75,000:


Pinch of salt perhaps.


Gerry Barnes - July 19, 2010

So what great changes did RMG, the League for a Workers’ Republic and many tiny activist organisations before and since effect? The fact that they and many mentioned in the Gralton list faded into oblivion demonstrates that they effected no important changes in Irish society. That Gralton list reads like a Roll of Futility.


Budapestkick - July 19, 2010

FF and FG have far higher memberships than 3,000/4,000. They’d need five times that just to run in as many constituencies as they do.


Budapestkick - July 19, 2010

‘So what great changes did RMG, the League for a Workers’ Republic and many tiny activist organisations before and since effect? ‘

None, but the point is that they obviously thought they could become far larger. It’s important to keep in mind that the (relatively) larger far left outlets like SP, TWAG, SWP etc. would have started out with only a handful of members but were able to build into something a bit more significant. I think it’s also important to remember that relatively small groups can be important in particular movements or struggles, for example the Militant in the Liverpool struggle and anti-poll tax movements, the SWP in the anti-war movement, the SP in GAMA and the anti-water charges campaign, the American Communist League in the Minneapolis Teamsters Strikes etc.

Obviously the main factor is that each group sees itself as the vanguard of a future revolution, it’s the organisations that balance that belief with a programme and an orientation to the real struggles of ordinary people that go beyond being mere sects.


3. John O'Neill - July 20, 2010

“‘So what great changes did RMG, the League for a Workers’ Republic and many tiny activist organisations before and since effect? ‘


Thats a bit too negative for me. Supposing I read the above or Mark P read it and decided that we agreed with the content and this was the ‘spark’ that helped persuaded us to get involved in socialist politics? We may not have joined the RMG but the document made us consider activism. Why do you think left organisations place such an emphasis on producing literature? I also think that socialists read literature from the broad left to understand and sometimes criticise positions at odds with their own but there is also the possibility that their understanding can be influenced by alternative analysis.


Budapestkick - July 20, 2010

I was perhaps being a bit too negative, though if you look at the rest of my post I don’t think I was being especially negative, quite positive and balanced in fact. I understand why socialist organisations place a lot of emphasis on literature, being an SP activist myself. However, I don’t really think this particular document would have that effect, being as it isn’t really aimed at the public in the same sense that Look Left, the Socialist, the SWP paper etc. would be. However, I stand by comment that small sects along the lines of the IWG etc. haven’t made a significant impact, aside from the off chance that they may or may not have made people consider activism.


WorldbyStorm - July 21, 2010

I know precisely what you mean. i guess internal education for cohesiveness is necessary – no? And probably more so in smaller organisations. I’m not sure where Jim is but he’d be the man to tell us.

I take your point about small organisations (I’m not a fan of the word ‘sects’ 🙂 ), but look at how people like Carol Coulter et al came from tiny groups and that clearly radicalised them… so it’s not all a disaster.


Budapestkick - July 21, 2010

I never said disaster, I said never made a signficant impact. I wouldn’t characterise radicalising two or three significant people as much of an achievement. I take your point about internal cohesiveness and I assume the group had a seperate organ for interventions.


WorldbyStorm - July 21, 2010

Ah no, I didn’t mean to say you said it was a disaster. The dangers of commenting at 1am.You’re right of course that many of these groups did relatively little or achieved relatively little, and no doubt some of the activity was a waste of time but in a context of low radicalisation generally something above the ordinary is no small thing. Like yourself I’d love people to gravitate into larger entities, but that doesn’t appear to be the way of it, so one makes do with what one can.


4. Starkadder - July 20, 2010

I remember this RMG magazine…they did a special feminist
issue later, which featured articles on Germaine Greer and
Wilhelm Reich.

Didn’t one of RMG’s activists end up working at RTE?


WorldbyStorm - July 21, 2010

Which one? I’m genuinely curious.


Starkadder - July 21, 2010

I think Betty Purcell in RTE was a RMG member at one
stage. I don’t know any other RMG members except
D.R. O’Connor Lysaght.


5. NollaigO - July 21, 2010

More than one.
A female and a male.
They also had a supporter who became mayor of Limerick.


6. Jim Monaghan - July 21, 2010

I, perhaps, also, gave you the journal.
Size of RMG;
Dublin about 15 vto 20,
Limerick max of say 5. They published the Bottom Dog there.
Belfast about 5.
Influence. Let history judge. Small groups with the right politics and the right time can do things and influence events. EG the attempt by the state to hang the Murrays. With a civil liberties approach I think the RMG helped bring the anti hanging campâign out of a self imposed ghetto.Merged with PD we played an important role in the H Block struggle, the SF outflanked us with a turn to the left, since reversed, in my opinion. But such is life.
2 were in RTE. 1 is an SIPTU official. I am retired.
I was a dissident and sceptical about what I regared as ultraleftism. I never thought that the Provos could succeed.
Main theorist was Brendan who wrote as Conway. I am reluctant to give explicit names as I beleive people may now want privacy.

Oh the Contraception Action campaign and other equality campaigns were initiated by the RMG.


7. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - July 22, 2010

[…] and Orders: The Belfast ‘Curfew’ of 3-5 July 1970 (1970) * Revolutionary Marxist Group (RMG): Marxist Review, Frühjahr 1973 * David Bleakley: Crisis in Ireland (1974) * Irish Socialist Network: Parting Company: Ending […]


8. Left Archive: Socialist Republic (incorporating The Plough), Paper of the Revolutionary Marxist Group No. 1 c.1975 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - July 16, 2012

[…] documents in the Archive from the RMG include this and this and we have quite a number of other documents scanned and ready to post up. Share […]


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