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Left Archive: The Irish Left – For Revolutionary Regroupment – Independent Socialist Party c. late 1970s August 5, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Independent Socialist Party (Ireland), Irish Left Online Document Archive.


To download the above document please click on the following link: ISP 2

Many thanks to Daniel Finn for forwarding this document to the Archive.

This is an useful document published by the ISP [of which more see here] in the late 1970’s. It seeks to argue the case for a revolutionary regroupment of the Irish left and analyse the forces then extant within it. Although there is a note at the beginning that ‘the criticisms expressed within it are intended as constructive and fraternal – [and] it is hoped that the named parties and organisations will regard them in this light’ it seems unlikely that that would be the case.

It starts by arguing that:

Revolutionary Marxism has gained immensely within small sections fothe Irish working class during the last ten years. During that time comrades from divergent political backgrounds have groped towards a deeper understanding of Marxist doctrine. Ten years of practice in class and anti-imperialist struggles have taught many of us the value of the marxist method in understanding Irish society.
Although many paid lip service to the necessity for building a revolutionary party during this time, little serious effort was made to wards that goal. Instead illusions of grandeur abounded. individualism , romanticism and heavy doses of ultra-leftism ran riot, seriously hindering advancement towards a revolutionary party. It is important that we look at that period and analyse the mistakes made, in order to benefit from the experience.

And it assesses in turn various elements of the left in the Irish context, noting in passing that:

We had inadequate grasp of marxist methodology, practically no access to the writings of marxists and furthermore had the attractiveness of revolutionary ideology in Republicanism, which required little intellectual effort and evoked tremendous emotional commitment. Furthermore, through imperialist culture, we were subjected to the ideology of social democracy, which in the sixties – certainly in Britain and Ireland – had a very radical face, culminating in the 1969 Irish Labour Party acceptance of the goal of a Workers’ Republic.

In relation to the critique of organisations the document argues, for example of ‘The Far Left’:

The oldest of these groups is P.D. it contains some of the most experienced and dedicated comrades of the Left. It has a turbulent internal history and an active external one. Recently its parting of the ways with the Red Republicans seriously weakened it numerically, but seems to have strengthened it theoretically. it has abandoned its ‘loyalist fascist’ phase and its involvement in the James Connolly Society shows its belated recognition of the importance of theoretical clarity.

Of Official Sinn Féin it says the following:

Since the IRSP split the Officials have moved rapidly to the right almost adopting a two nations theory (see Smullen’s ‘The Irish Industrial Revolution’). They seem to have adopted a strategy of winning friends and influencing people within the trade union bureaucracy and the middle management of state enterprises in the South. Their total acceptance of Stalinism renders almost impossible the emergence of a revolutionary marxist trend within their adult ranks. But the IDYM should not be neglected. This contains working class youths who are not yet totally ‘stalinised’. A revolutionary should not ignore chances of influencing young workers here, by deed and word.

On the League for a Workers’ Republic:

Obscure labour party based group with tiny membership.

And of itself…

Emerged after a split in the IRSP and has the most potential for recruitment of the existing left-wing groups. It works in three areas of (1) Democratic struggles (2) Economic struggles (3) Women’s struggles. It has pushed for left unity and developed a Workers’ Resource centre in Belfast which has great assisted socialist roots in the working class. It is also the most broadly based, geographically, of the existing groups.

There is much more and all of it of interest to those looking for the perspectives of those involved in political activity at the time.

It concludes:

The creation of one Far Left organisation would be a major step towards building a revolutionary mass party. It would provide the resources of new interventions in class struggle. It would create a militant fighting organisation of class conscious workers. It would bey continuous and fruitful debate raise the level of marxism amongst militants.
Comrades, a revolutionary regroupment is not only necessary, it is in my mind, also possible.


1. D_D - August 5, 2013

Thanks for posting this very interesting item. A quick one for now as the ISP has been discussed here before. (If you have the link handy WBS it would be great to put it up).

IMHO the ISP was the best grouping to branch from the modern republican movement. As we see here they were also pioneers of ‘revolutionary regroupment’, a plaintive plea yet to bear fruit (with some of the diaspora from the British organisations giving it a good go at the moment). Nevertheless the ISP came to a full stop, without a visible legacy, in a short time. I have mentioned before that the failure of the fusion talks with the SWM was a big disappointment, to me anyway.

No one seems to have written about the fate of the ISP from the inside.


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