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Gerry Foley, Socialist and Republican: 1939 − 2012 April 23, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left.

On foot of the sad news that Gerry Foley has died here’s a few pieces relating to him and his life. As a socialist with a profound interest in Ireland and matters Irish and as the author of a number of pamphlets directly linked to that his views of the situation, particularly in the early to mid 1970s are of particular interest.

We start with with a letter from a comrade of his reflecting on his passing and his life.

Dear Comrades,

I just learned from Gerry Foley’s friend in Mexico that Gerry died  suddenly today in Mexico. Gerry called me a few days ago to say that  he was happily moving from his rented home in Mérida to a happy home  in San Cristobol de Las Cases, in the mountains of Chiapas.

Just a few moments ago Gerry was walking into his house. He fell down  and died almost immediately with no symptoms beforehand other than a  mild cough and some shortness of breath, according to his close friend Pete.

Gerry was a founding member of Socialist Action, a fulltime  revolutionary for our party for some 20-plus years. Before that he was  a fulltimer for The Fourth International, magazine International  Viewpoint. And before that a fulltimer for the SWP since his twenties.  Gerry was 72 or 73 years old and perhaps our most dedicated, talented  and gifted revolutionary.

Those of us who knew him will never forget his generous spirit,  brilliance of exposition, depth of analysis, love of live in all its diversity and enduring friendship.

Gerry not only read in 80 languages but was fluent in morethan a dozen. More amazing, his uncommon language facility was matched by a truly unbelievable understanding of the history and culture of each language that he mastered.

He was perhaps the world’s most informed person on Irish history. Tears often came to his eyes when the subject came up during his  innumerable talks on virtually any subject he was assigned to. Lessons  from the Irish struggle for self-determination, the longest in world 
history, more than 700 years and still uncompleted, found their way  into so many of Gerry’s talks and writing. No comrade that I ever met  or knew of could match Gerry’s deep understanding of the national  question. Comrades who knew Gerry will immediately know that this is  no exaggeration. He was a champion of all oppressed peoples and  despised their oppressors with great passion.

Gerry’s contribution to the revolutionary socialist movement will endure through the generations. His works have been published across the world. His spirit and dedication lives in our party and comrades.

Gerry remained an honorary member of our Political Committeeto the end, finding the time once in a while to join ourdeliberations and take an occasional assignment. He hoped to attend our August National Convention.

I write today just a few minutes after Gerry’s untimely death out of duty to all his many friends and comrades and to express my great sorrow at his loss. In the days ahead I hope to hear from comrades who knew Gerry well and who can take a few moments to record some of the precious experiences that highlighted his mighty contribution to the socialist cause and the love and interests he shared so generously with so many of us.

The coming issue of our newspaper will honor Gerry’s contributions to our common struggle for the liberation of all humankind. We want it to be a sterling call for others to follow in his footsteps.

With great sadness and tears for our magnificent friend and comrade. 

He taught us all so much and enriched our very being.


Jeff Mackler
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jim Monaghan makes the following points:

I met him in 1969 in New York where the SWP had a forum/discussion on Ireland. He had some Irish ancestry. He had a gra for national struggles, even for those few ad ever heard off. I remember him referring to say Occitans as a submerged nation. He respected he Republican tradition in Ireland and figured that Marxism and it could learn from each other.

And John Meehan has sent these links:

A 2009 article on the rise of the new USA far right :
The Ultra-Right Pot Boils Over

A tribute to Ernest Mandel (1995)

An article (October 2008) on the failing USA war in Afghanistan :

U.S. Military Pokes a Hornet’s nest on the Pakistan Border

Interview with Bernadette McAliskey on Murder of Rosemary Nelson :

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey: Sinn Fein should leave peace process

Many thanks to both John and Jim.

There’s one other document from him relating to the early 1970s which will be posted up in the Archive in the next week and which will reflect the fact he was a dedicated and supportive observer of Irish left politics.


1. tomasoflatharta - April 23, 2012

Reblogged this on Tomás Ó Flatharta.


2. malachysteenson - April 23, 2012

Reblogged this on Malachysteenson’s Blog.


3. Brian Hanley - April 23, 2012

Very sorry to hear about Gerry Foley’s death. He was generous to myself and Scott Millar when we started researching the Lost Revolution. His two pamphlets and various articles (usually in Intercontinental Press) about the Officials in the early 70s are well worth reading. His interviews with Tomas Mac Giolla and Cathal Goulding are particularly good for a snapshot of their movement in a particular time and place. His obituary for Liam McMillen is also an impressive article.


Jim Monaghan - April 24, 2012

He wrote two internal documents “These on Ireland” which was a critique in part of both the Officials and the Provos and “The test of Ireland” which was a critique of the ultraleft approach of the then majority of the Fourth International to Ireland which was heavily influenced by Guevaraism.The late Gery Lawless would have been the central ideologue driving this line on Ireland.It basically felt that the armed struggle of the Provos was sufficient to drive the British out. He wrote a devastating critique f the British SLL/WRP and its line on Ireland. Aside form McMillan he wrote obits for McGurran and Costello, recognising the strengths and weaknesses of both. He was loath to write people and movements off.He endeavoured to maintain friendships in spite of differences.
He was a significant figure in many debates in The Fourth International. I, especially, remember his critique of ultraleftism in the Portuguese revolution. There was a stupid attempt to takeover over a newspaper associated with the Socialist Party. This played into the hands of the right, allowing it to claim that the revolution was going in a Stalinist and totalitarian direction.
He read many languages. Not as many as some claimed but impressive nonetheless. He was the total intellectual. Always happy in a book shop. The typical image of him is weighed down by books.
He had been a member of the American SWP and was driven out as it turned away from mass struggle to becoming a cult.He was a founder of the Fourth International journal “International Viewpoint”. In spite of his critiques of old positions taken by The FI, The leadership having moved away from previous positions were prepared to utilise his talents.
I met him first in 1969.


Michael Schreiber - May 5, 2012

When I asked Gerry a couple of years ago how many languages he could read, he replied that if related tongues like Danish and Norwegian were counted as distinct languages, then 90. But if you grouped them merely as dialects of the same language, then he could read around 60.


4. Gerry Foley (1939-2012) « Entdinglichung - April 24, 2012

[…] Sonnabend starb, wie Cedar Lounge Revolution und Socialist Democracy (nachfolgend dokumentiert) melden, der revolutionäre Marxist Gerry […]


5. entdinglichung - April 24, 2012

very sad … I liked reading his articles in the Socialist Action newspaper 10-15 years ago … ¡Gerry presente!


6. Seán Ó Tuama - April 24, 2012

Very sorry to hear about Gerry’s death.

I first met him in 1971. I always enjoyed conversations with him when he was in Ireland. We shared an interest in national minorities and he was always a mine of information on this as on other topics. He was refreshingly non-dogmatic and had a genuine interest in hearing other peoples’ perspectives on issues.

He followed developments in the Irish language movement and could read Irish well and translate articles from it.

He had a rare understanding of national oppression and as Jim said above a real empathy with oppressed national groups.


7. Jim Monaghan - April 24, 2012

I remember him coming up with the term “submerged nation”. This was nations or national groups whose very existence was in doubt. He figured that the cultural and political price paid for the suppression was huge.
When the USSR was beginning to totter I think he and Conor Brady of the Irish Times were amongst the few who saw the oppressed nations of the USSR as being a key factor.I remember one discussion in Dublin where a discussion was had on the various national groups of the USSR, even ones that only experts knew of such as the Finnish ones.


David Altman - April 24, 2012

I spoke to Gerry shortly after he visited the Soviet Union in 1991, when it was on its deathbed. He was heartened by the rise of previosly-downtrodden groups like the Buryats, who were reclaiming their traditional Mongol script. We also discussed the old Biafran cause, to which he had always been sympathetic.


8. Sean Prendiville - April 26, 2012

Sorry to hear about Gerry. I read all of his articles from the 1960’s and 1970’s. I was finally able to meet him in San Francisco in the 1990’s. He, Jeff Mackler, and Socialist Action were very active in the H-Block 4 Defense Committee trying to prevent the extradition of the four H-Block escapees. Gerry had a very dry wit and an enormous amount of knowledge. I didn’t always agree with him but with Gerry you always had to be prepared to defend any argument. This is a great loss.


9. entdinglichung - April 30, 2012

short obituary by Penny Duggan on the IV webpage: http://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article2590

Death of Gerry Foley, first editor of IV

Penelope Duggan

It is with great sadness that the International Viewpoint team has learnt of the sudden death at his new home in Chiapas, Mexico of the first editor of International Viewpoint, Gerry Foley.

Gerry Foley was asked to be the first editor and lynchpin of International Viewpoint as the English-language voice of the Fourth International, a role that was no longer played by Intercontinental Press published in New York under the auspices of the SWP.

International Viewpoint was launched with Issue 0 at the end of 1981 and began regular production in 1982. Gerry’s knowledge of Eastern Europe society and languages was important in helping us to follow what was happening in Poland, notably in the early years of the magazine, and then later in the decade the events leading to and following the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, he also followed events in Latin America, the development of the PT in Brazil, the aftermath of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, the development of the PRT in Mexico. Gerry Foley returned to the US in the early 1990s to work on Socialist Action.

Gerry brought to the new magazine the experience of the best days of IP and the SWP. He had been, as he was proud to tell us, trained by Joseph Hansen in high standards of factual accuracy and meticulous sub-editing. This was however secondary to his broad international experience and knowledge, and impressive linguistic ability, which enabled him to feed the magazine with material from political, social and progressive movements from around the world. The continuing existence of IVP today, albeit in online format, stands as tribute to Gerry’s contribution in creating and maintaining it.


10. entdinglichung - May 1, 2012

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