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Left Archive: Revolution, Republicanism and Religion: An examination of the republican response to clerical attacks. Workers League c. late 1970s August 16, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Workers League.
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WL 1977

The Workers League has been dealt with in a posting here in the Irish Online Left HIstory project. Suffice it to say that it originated in the Trotskyist ‘League for a Workers Republic’ which split into groups, some supporting the Socialist Labour League in the UK and others the Internationalist Communist Organisation in France. A small group broke away from support for the ICO and reformed themselves as League for a Workers Vanguard and two years later as the Workers League. They were allies of Gerry Healy’s Socialist Labour League.

Some interesting personalities were members of the Workers League including Jack O’Connor but while active on occasion it finally disintegrated around 1978.

This document, Revolution, Republicanism and Religion: An examination of the republic response to clerical attacks is eighteen pages long.

It uses striking rhetoric…

The revolution is at the cross-roads. Matters are not the same as they were two years ago.

On the one hand – emergency powers in the 26 counties, police riots on the streets, fascist thuggery in the prisons, the whole country an armed camp.

On the other hand – huge street mobilizations by the Republican movement, thousands of working class youth attracted to the Provisionals, a clear turn to the left in the anti-imperialist struggle in the North.

It is particularly exercised by attacks on capitalists.

John Hume, the SDLP, the Stickies, the opium pedlars of the ‘Peace’ Movement, all have come out against the Provisional IRA’s campaign against capitalists in the six counties. As expected. So too did Father Denis Faul of Dungannon. The PIRA attacks on individual capitalists greatly alarmed all the enemies of the revolution.

The Workers League does not support attacks on individual capitalists because this method does not get rid of the capitalist class. our method is the method of the October Revolution, the mobilization o f the working class as a class against the bourgeoisie and its agents.

It continues:

…we welcome Peter Dowling’s call in Republican News for ‘a battle of ideas amongst progressive forces’. We show in this pamphlet that the conception of socialism in Republican News is an illusion because it is based on a false theory that Christianity is in agreement with the socialist revolution. We show that Christianity (including Catholicism) is the ideological weapon of the capitalist class. How can the proletariat overthrow class rule when it fights class rule with the ideas of class rule?

And there follows an essay which counterposes what it believes to be the conservative and reactionary aspects of Christianity as against revolutionary socialism, utilising by way of example, the statements and approach of Father Denis Faul.

In sum a document that gives a clear insight into the position of the Workers League during this period.

Comments»

1. Hugh Kennedy - August 16, 2010

Jack O’Connor was a member of the Workers League?

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WorldbyStorm - August 16, 2010

So I heard and indeed it mentions it on the wiki page – which means absolutely nothing of course. This could be inaccurate and any amendments gladly accepted. All this is a work in progress and obviously some stuff will get through that’s wrong.

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Mark P - August 16, 2010

O’Connor was certainly on the far left in his younger days, before making his peace with the status quo. I don’t know if he was in the CL.

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2. Budapestkick - August 16, 2010

If I didn’t know about the Worker’s League I could have swore this was written by a foreign group.

‘John Hume, the SDLP, the Stickies, the opium pedlars of the ‘Peace’ Movement, all have come out against the Provisional IRA’s campaign against capitalists in the six counties’

That is a frankly bizarre statement. How many capitalists did the PIRA actually target? Once you take out military forces, RUC, other paramilitaries and purely sectarian killings how many of their targets could really be classified as attacks on capitalists? True, in the 90s the economic damage campaign could be classified as attacks on capital, but again they only rarely targeted individual capitalists.

The whole concept of Christian socialism as it relates to the Provisionals is interesting though, an attempt to reconcile their somewhat conservative origins with a working-class base and an increasingly reconciled membership. It’d be interesting to know if there are any groups around today that define their politics in these terms.

Other than that, this seems to be yet another left group whose position on the north was simply to outdo the other pro-PIRA groups in their cheerleading. Unsurprisingly none of those groups seem to have survived to this day in any strong / coherent form.

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WorldbyStorm - August 16, 2010

I’d tend to agree. There’s a tone that seems curiously detached throughout.

I’d imagine the Christian socialism, albeit not ‘socialism’ as such – more vocationalism/corporatism was fairly popular. There’s certainly elements in Éire Nua of that approach.

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T - August 16, 2010

While I agree with you about the general tone of the publication I think the campaign against capitalists is probably in reference to a brief (and unpopular) programme of attacks on investors in the North carried out by the Provos in ’76 & ’77. Note the date of the pamphlet. I think one or two were killed. Doubtless more info. on the topic in the standard works on the Provos.

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Budapestkick - August 17, 2010

Thanks for the clarification. That’s an interesting one. Echoes of the economic resistance campaign of the 60s.

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3. Jim Monaghan - August 17, 2010

These were very minor business people not moguls by ant stretch. Amongst many stupid things they did.My impression would be that with the illness of Dave Fry and the departure of Dermot Whelan whatever they had to write anything was seriously diminished. Very much a local franchise of London. A Jack Gale wrote a pamphlet on Ireland riddled with mistakes.
They went through a bit of a 2 nationist phase if memory serves me.
On Christianity, while an atheist I would guess that a lot of good people will attempt to reconcile religion and socialism/marxism in many ways. I have met many decent leftwingers who are believers of some sort and a few atheists leftwingers that I would be wary off.
Eire Nua was effectively written by Roy Johnston, at least so I was told. The Provos took it off the shelf when they left.
On the survival of the WL, it was not republicanism that did for them. They were just a useless sect, a branch office of a dead end sect.
On Jack O’Connor, the WL like a lot of groups had a revolving door membership.I don’t think he was a Jospin.

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4. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - August 19, 2010

[…] Workers League (WL): Revolution, Republicanism and Religion: An examination of the republican response to clerical attack… […]

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5. shane - August 19, 2010

The Eire Nua stress on co-operatives was influenced by Fr McDyer’s example in Donegal. IIRC the UDA also embraced a co-operative model in Beyond the Religious Divide. Maurice Curtis in Militant Catholicism in Modern Ireland gives an excellent historical summary of the Irish Catholic vocationalist movement.

I’m actually currently reading the Report of the Committee into Vocational Organization (1943). The Committee was established by De Valera in 1939 and chaired by the Bishop of Galway but had a comprehensive membership (including Professors Alfred O’Rahilly and Michael Tierney). It aimed to reconstruct Irish society on vocationalist lines.It’s an absolutely fascinating document.

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shane - August 19, 2010

sorry for the italics.

Should’ve said the Report of the Commission on Vocational Organisation (….like it matters)

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