1 comment so far
To download the above please click on the following link. IWG Connolly Book 1990
As a part of our continuing project to build a collection of documents relating to 1916 here is a further one from the Irish Workers Group from 1990. The Left Archive is very grateful to those involved in that group for compiling and forwarding this keynote work. As the person who sent it notes:
In 1990 the Irish Workers Group published a book on James Connolly. It collected a series of articles that had appeared in IWG journals in the ’80s. No-one acknowledged their existence even when later preaching about some of its ideas.
Here is the original.
IWG’s intention was to bring out an analysis for anyone putting together a revolutionary socialist current in Ireland.
While defending the 1916 Rising, it critiques the ‘socialist republican’ history and doctrine that has afflicted the best traditions in Ireland of opposition to imperialism and capitalism.
It is also appropriate to quote from the Introduction to the work.
It argues that:
Every serious attempt since 1916 to develop a socialist programme which addresses also the National Question has looked to Connolly’s legacy. His ‘socialist republicanism’, because it is ambiguous on key questions of class and nation, remains an obstacle to developing independent working class politics
And suggests that:
The purpose of this book… is to examine the roots, influences and level ped ideas of Connolly’s thought from an unashamedly Marxist standpoint. Not the “Marxism” of Greaves or of Stalinists generally, but that of the classical tradition upheld and developed by Trotsky from the mid 1920’s, when Stalin’s grip began to tighten on the neck of the October revolution and all its historic aspirations. Now that Stalinism is being ground between the upper wheel of imperialism and the nether wheel of working class revolution, as predicted by Trotsky, it is all the more relevant for Marxists to re-examine Connolly’s legacy in a clearer light.
After the rising, Trotsky perceptively observed that the young Irish working class, emerging against a backdrop of a burgeoning nationalism and “the egoistic, narrow-minded imperial arrogance of British trade unionism”, tended to swing between syndicalism and nationalism in search of a programme. Connolly’s central ideological struggle consisted of the attempt to render such impulses into a coherent political consciousness. The wonder is that he achieved as much as he did, given the sources and influences that shaped his ideas. We see his demise in the 1916 insurrection not as the product of a simple abandonment of his socialist career, but rather as its inescapable conclusion. Not some sudden conversion to Pearse’s nationalism but his own theoretical paradigm since as early as 1897, provides the key to the rights and wrongs of Connolly’s ultimate political sacrifice, and indeed to so much of the political legacy we have inherited from him.
A provocative and timely addition to the Archive.
To download the above please click on the following link. LEFT PERSPECTIVES
Left Perspectives describes itself as presenting a ‘socialist analysis of political, economic and social problems’. It continues that it has a policy of ‘using non-sexist language’. It seeks articles ‘with a practical emphasis’.
The range of contributors is wide. Dermot Quish, a long-standing socialist activist was a teacher at the time, Madge Davison was secretary of NICRA, Francis Devine was co-Editor of Saothor, Seanie Lambe part of the group of activists around Tony Gregory, Art Kavanagh, a former UCD student activist, Brian Trench needs no introduction, Andrew Boyd a graduate of QUB and one-time apprentice in Harland and Wolff and Chris Kirwan of the ITGWU.
Likewise the articles cover a broad range of topics, ‘Pedagogy and Politics’ by Quish, Inflation and Pay Restraint by Art Kavanagh, a section focusing on Northern Ireland with pieces by Madge Davison and Andrew Boyd and one which includes an overview of the Northern Ireland Association of Socialist Lawyers founded that year.
There are also a number of book reviews.
A small taste of the overall approach can be given by a number of quotations from the Editorial which is on Northern Ireland.
It notes that:
For socialists, NI presents a series of political problems. The province is a development of capitalism, of British imperialism and colonialism, but to state the problem thus is not to point infallibly to its solution.
It also notes that:
Colonialism involved the creation of a privileged minority of colonists who are the local embodiment of the colonial power. When the colonial thrust has been reversed, the colonists have either to put up or get out, not least because there are fear of them than there are of the natives. In NI the colonists (and anti-Unionist rhetoric veers uneasily between welcoming them as Irishmen and women under the skin, and threatening to chase them into the sea), actually outnumber the natives. Only in Ireland as a whole do they form the classic political minority. But Ireland as a whole is not the political unit – and attempts to claim that it is must take second place to official insistence, however qualified, on the right of NI’s own political majority to self-determination.
It also notes that
Above [?] all that Dublin and London appear to be agreed that there can be no return to simple majority rule.
And suggests that:
The principal options at present, therefore, are direct rule and some form of power-sharing. The critical political question is whether there is any sanction which will force unionist to accept the latter. It could be argued that the North’s anti-unionists have a unique power to defuse the border as an issue Irish politics, in return for acceptance by unionists of power-sharing; if one accepts that Dublin cannot, and London will not, take out by removing it forcibly.
Socialists may have to accept, in the short term, that the quality of their analyses of the Northern situation is not matched by a capacity to influence it; and that even the mergence of a conservative but non-sectarian administration, together with the democratic processes by which it can be opposed and replaced, is preferable to a type of politics which takes place only behind closed doors.
This necessarily commits socialists, whether in NI, Britain or the Republic, to a long march; identifying the ruling groups in society and mobilising political action against them; opposing illegal violence by whomsoever exercised; persuading international socialism that the cliches of terrorism in NI are not the language of the left; and exposing the many and varied ways in which democratic structures can be manipulated.
Any further information on provenance – or other issues – would be very gratefully accepted by the Archive.
1 comment so far
To download the above please click on the following link. UI 1966 copy
This month we’ll be highlighting documents that engage with 1916 – either from the 1966 or 1991 anniversaries. Many thanks to those who forwarded same to the Archive. In particular many thanks to Spaílpín for donating this issue to the Archive.
It seems appropriate this Easter to look back both to 1916 and 1966. With that in mind the Archive posts this edition of the United Irishman from that latter year in order to offer an insight into pre-split Sinn Féin during the mid to late 1960s.
The front page is split between an article on how a Jury had been unable to agree in regard to Cathal Goulding’s possession of a weapon and ammunition, a report on a police baton charge at a Republican parade en route to Glasnevin cemetery and a report on ‘the greatest ever Republican demonstration held in the North’. Seamus Costello delivered the oration which included:
If we of this generation are to pay a fitting tribute to the men who died for us all in 1916 it is absolutely essential that we understand the ideals for which they died. The most widespread misconception outside the Republican Movement concerning the men of 1916 is that they had died simply to change the colour of the flag and the post boxes- that they were a group of romantics unconcerned with the everyday problems of the people. Nothing could be further removed from the truth.
He continues by discussing the situation in the Republic after ’45 years of so-called ‘independence’.
What they [Irish politicians] mean [when they say we are ‘free’] is that they have accepted the existence elf Partition, with its consequent evils of emigration, unemployment and sheer poverty. They would also have us believe that that selling of our national assets to the first foreigner who has the money to buy is a hallmark of freedom. They would also have liked us to believe that the use of the infamous Offences Against the State Act against workers who are struggling for a just wage is a necessary and desirable thing.
Mentioning the ‘so-called ‘Free Trade Agreement’, he suggests that:
This agreement which will make Ireland more dependent on Britain’s goodwill politically and economically than at any times since the Act of Union – this, then is the ‘freedom’ that Mr. Lemass would like us to believe the patriots of 1916 died for.
He considers the situation in Northern Ireland:
The North today is palace of carefully fostered bigotry and sectarianism. It is also a place where an extremely high proportion of the population is denied the right to have a political organisation which represents their point of view. It is also place where religious differences between Catholic and Protestant workers are deliberately fostered by those whose only purpose is the exploitation of all workers.
It is essential that we understand how discrimination agasint any section of the working classes works to the benefit of the Capitalist class. The great majority of people in the North are either industrial workers or small farmers who are controlled economically by a majority of the wealthy and privileged capitalists. It is the business of these capitalists to maintain their privileged positions…
He argues that:
The first aim of the Republican Movement is to unite all sections of the Irish people, irrespective of class, creed or political persuasions in their demands for political and economic independence.
And he argues that 1798 and Connolly prove this task is not impossible. And he concludes by suggesting:
We will not compromise on this question [the evacuation of British troops from our country]. No foreign troops under *no matter what flag* will ever garrison Ireland in peace. [text bolded in original].
The contents of the rest of the publication are eclectic. They include Notes and Comments on ‘Empty “Patriotic” Rhetoric. A report on the ‘election rout of Republicans’ in the ’1966 Imperial Elections in the Six Counties’ which suggests a renewed focus on ‘bread and butter issues’. Another piece by Deasún Breathnach is entitled ‘Invitation to Revolution’ and there is a long report on the Easter Week Commemorations which quotes Tomás MacGiolla as arguing that:
The Irish people must oppose the unchristian capitalist system inherited from Britain which leads to the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few and the permanent degradation of the many who are deprived of essential health and educational facilities, job security, a decent wage and satisfactory living conditions.
There is mention of work done by the Clann na hÉireann on Glencolumbkille working in tandem with the Errigal Co-Operative. A focus on sport is also evident. The book service and titles offered therein is of considerable interest. There is also an IRPB Statement effectively disavowing responsibility for ‘damage [which was caused to various public utilities].
Left Archive: In Memory of Tone – Wolfe Tone Week, June 12-19, 1966, Wolfe Tone Committee, Sinn Féin. March 21, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Sinn Féin (pre-split, Uncategorized, Wolfe Tone Committee.
1 comment so far
To download the above please click on the following link.SF WOLFETONE1966 MACGIOLLA
This month we’ll be highlighting documents that engage with 1916 – either from the 1966 or 1991 anniversaries. Many thanks to those who forwarded same to the Archive and in particular many thanks to Bobcat who forwarded this particular document to the Archive.
This short 8 page document starts with the following:
1798 – 1966
Theobald Wolfe Tone is remembered and honoured as the Father of Irish Republicanism. This booklet is published as a tribute to him and as a guide to the many events of Wolfe Tone Week in Dublin. It also contains articles in which the principles of Irish Republicanism are discussed in the light of the present state of our country.
There is an essay on Nationalism by Tomás Mac Giolla, Uachtarán Sinn Féin, another by Dr. Roy Johnston on Economic Resistance: A Re-Examination. As part of the latter there is a Democratic Unity Programme outlined which it is suggested ‘may possibly be regarded as a basis for further dialogue between the Labour and Republican Movements and the recommendation that:
…the Republican Movement can adopt the following programme if it so chooses. It can recognise itself as a movement principally of the one-man farm and the one-man firm; the men of small property, whose existence is threatened by the existing economic trends, especially the foreign monopolistic take-overs. It can consciously adopt a co-operate programme adapted to the needs of the small producers and the small urban businesses (whether retail or productive) and seek alliance with a Trade Union Movement in which the ‘men of no property’ were organised as such.
And it explicitly calls for an effort to ‘revive the Connolly tradition within the ‘Trade Union and Labour Movement’.
There is an outline of Wolfe Tone Week events, which include a Céilí Mór, Bus Tour’s led by Éamonn Mac Thomáis from Liberty Hall ‘In the Footsteps of Lord Edward’. Dr. Seán Ó Tuama speaks on Irish and Politics. Kader Asmal, then lecturing in TCD talks about ‘Trade Unions, Industrial Relations and the Law’. Brendan Halligan speaks on ‘The Impossible Philosophy’. There is a concert of Ballads, Traditional Music and Dance. A Parade from Liberty Hall to Wolfe Tone Memorial Park and a Memorial Service at St. Mary’s Church after which the Train leaves for Bodenstown. Another piece by Séan O Beirn is entitled ‘An Phoblacht Abu! – cen ceann acu?’ and the leaflet concludes with The Blarismoor Tragedy street ballad from the early 1800s and a further one By Memory Inspired.
It is worth noting the emphasis on nationalism in the Mac Giolla piece.
Nationalism is the dynamo which can spur the nation to progress – social progress, economic progress, cultural progress. Nationalism and patriotism make us eager to give our own people better conditions than any other people. It helps us to create our own ideas and develop them by our own efforts. By building up a dynamic and progressive national socio-economic structure based on an ideology developed from Irish conditions and on Irish needs, we can give a new lead and new hope to the many young nations which have in recent years emerged from Europan colonialism. Many of these are still groping in the dark and are easy pretty to the great powers who are casting their bait from East and West.
Irish Left Archive: James Connolly and the 1916 Rising, 75th Anniversary Supplement to Class Struggle, April 1991, Irish Workers Group March 14, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Workers Group.
1 comment so far
To download the above please click on the following link. IWG2016
This month we’ll be highlighting documents that engage with 1916 – either from the 1966 or 1991 anniversaries. Many thanks to those who forwarded same to the Archive.
This document, for which many thanks to the person who forwarded it to the Archive, is a four page special supplement to the Irish Workers Group publication Class Struggle for the 75th Anniversary Supplement.
The contents includes an outline of the the participation of James Connolly in the Rising. It argues that:
Ever since, the popular memory of Connolly has been that of a *national* revolutionary and labour leader rather than a revolutionary socialist. In the article in this supplement on Republican Socialism we show how he worked out, early in his career in the 1890s, an original but flawed theory of the Irish national question which *identified* republicanism with socialism.
The document examines Connolly’s approach and posits that:
Connolly was one of the first to appreciate the significance of the canoes taking place within the working class. The downtrodden and unskilled labouring masses of town and country and burst onto the scene with the weapon of mass struggle to challenge the bosses and their system. From the beginning he sought to give this movement a socialist class consciousness and leadership.
It also notes his support for armed self defence and ‘shrewd insights into the radicalising potential of women workers in struggle’. Another piece examines his support as a ‘Champion of the Woman Worker’. This suggests that:
…he had no perspective of mobilising amen in a specific struggle, using class action for woman’s emancipation. While he saw the necessity for women to fight together against their oppression, he narrowed the horizons for organised women workers to the fight around economic issues in the unions.
The document is also critical of Connolly. For example:
Tragically, Connolly’s overarching focus on the need for insurrection profoundly shaped his political propaganda during the war years. In Workers Republic in January 1916 immediately after joining the IRB conspiracy, he answered at length the question – ‘What is Our Programme?’. There we find nothing whatsoever with which the IRB could disagree – and nothing at all of a fighting socialist character.
And it continues;
The basis of his alliance with the IRB and the whole of his public propaganda in the lead up to 1916 show that he did not consciously seek to independently assert, let alone fight for at the time, a socialist programme. IT was the abandonment of a principle long established since Marx…
There is an useful piece on the World of James Connolly which considers his participation in the Scottish Socialist Federation amongst other matters. And another article looks at Connolly’s Republican Socialism.
Interestingly this concludes that:
Connolly’s much acclaimed slogan, therefore, ‘The cause of Ireland is the cause of labour, the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland’…was founded on a populist misconception of the national struggle as inevitably socialist. it masked in reality a tragic liquidation of the political independence of the working class into revolutionary nationalism. In that respect it is a part of Connolly’s legacy that must be rejected in the fight for the overall goal which Connolly first placed before the Irish working class – the establishment of a Workers Republic and international communism.
Irish Left Archive: 1916 – 1966, Irish Socialist Review, Irish Workers Party (later CPI), 1966 March 7, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in 1916, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
To download the above please click on the following link. IRISHSOCREV1966
This month we’ll be highlighting documents that engage with 1916 – either from the 1966 or 1991 anniversaries. Many thanks to those who forwarded same to the Archive.
Many thanks to Bobcat for forwarding this and other documents to the Archive.
This handsome twenty-four page document was issued by the IWP – the forerunner of the Communist Party of Ireland. It seeks to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Rising. The list of those contributing is extensive, including A Raftery (editor of the Irish Socialist), Joseph Deasy (author of The Fiery Cross: The Story of Jim Larkin) and Anthony Coughlan. Reprints of articles from Sean Murray (IRA and later CPI), Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (CPUSA) and John S. Clarke (a colleague of Connolly’s).
Contents wise it includes an overview of Easter Week 1916 and a re-examination of the Rising, which concludes:
The working class remains as the ‘incorruptible inheritors’ of 1916. By recapturing Connolly’s vision of the unity of national and social struggles they can give leadership to all those who will suffer from the repudiation of the heritage which was asserted in arms 50 years ago.
Another article notes ‘1913-1916: Similar Battle Lines’.
Elizabeth Gurley-Flynn’s piece examines Connolly in America and suggests that ‘he felt keenly that not enough understanding and sympathy was shown by American Socialists for the cause of Ireland’s national liberation, that the Irish workers here were too readily abandoned by the Socialists as ‘reactionaries’ and that there was not sufficient effort made to bring the message of Socialism to the Irish-American workers.
Another piece argues that ‘1916 proved Britain not Invincible’. And yet another considers Connolly’s views on partition. Here he offers the opinion that:
‘Personally I entirely agree with those who think [the proposal should be resisted with armed force if necessary]… Belfast is bad enough as it is; what it would be like under [Orange] rule the wildest imagination cannot conceive.
Anthony Coughlan’s piece argues that ‘The Connolly Road should lead to Labour Republican Unity’.
The publication contains many photographs of the period and after, the personal reminiscences of those involved in the Rising and also incorporates poems and songs into the text.
Left Archive: An Phoblacht, Volume 1, Number 2, March, 1970, Provisional Sinn Féin. February 29, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Sinn Féin.
To download the above please click on the following link. AP 1970
Many thanks to Spaílpín for donating this issue of An Phoblacht to the Archive. It offers a very useful insight into the period during the split in the Republican Movement in 1969/1970. Furthermore with an article on the meaning of 1916 it provides a good starting point for the materials being posted to the Archive over the next five weeks which will be comprised of publications referencing or being focused entirely on the events of 100 years ago.
This edition of An Phoblacht from Provisional Sinn Féin is notable for how it engages directly with the split in the Republican Movement earlier that year. An Open Letter from Ruairí O Brádaigh, in his role as Chairman of the Caretaker Executive of Sinn Féin outlines as much:
I fully intend to retain membership of Sinn Féin as I have done for the past 20 years. I deny your right and the right of your alleged Ard-Chomhairle to deprive me of membership. All of you who voted for resolution no.54 on the agenda of the recent Ard-Fheis giving ‘support and allegiance to the IRA’ as represented at the Ard-Fheis by an alleged Army council which is publicly committed to going into Westminster, Stormont and Leinster House, forfeited membership of the Sinn Féin organisation.
The Sinn Féin Constitution and Rules as re-affirmed by the Ard-Fheis specifically forbids entry to these parliaments and all of you who gave ‘support and allegiance’ to a leadership which intends doing so are in breach of the Sinn Féin Constitution and Rules and stand suspended from membership.
He notes the rules of the Constitution and then:
The Caretaker Executive appointed by the delegates who withdrew from the Intercontinental Hotel and resumed the Ard-Fheis in Parnell Square uphold the Constitution and Rules of Sinn Féin and pending the re-convening by it of an Ard-Fheis are the lawful governing body of the organisation.
Other news highlighted is the formation of a North West Regional Executive with the Secretary of that body being Daithí O Conaill. There is a reprint of an editorial from the Leinster Express, Port Laoise which speaks of a Sinn Féin Revival. This speaks of the walk out at the Ard-Fheis and how evidence of ‘infiltration by Communist elements was well documented in the statement [issued by the group which walked out]’.
Cumann na hUaimhe, Sinn Féin is reported as recognising the Provisional Army Council as the lawful leadership of the Republican Movement and stating:
We do not serve Queen, Kremlin or Free State, but will strive for a 32-County Republic based on the Proclamation of Easter Week and Christian principles.
Elsewhere it is reported that the South Galway Comhairle Ceantair held an AGM at which Ruairí O Brádaigh read a comprehensive statement from the Caretake Executive of SF giving five major reasons for the walk-out from the Ard-Fheis.
1) Recognition fo Westminster, Stormont and Leinster House.
2) Extreme Socialism leading to dictatorship.
3) Internal methods being used in the Movement.
4) Failure to give maximum possible defence in Belfast and other Northern centres last August.
5) Campaigning to retain Stormont instead of seeking its abolition.
An outline on the last page offers ‘Our Aims and Methods’ and includes the ambition of:
…[an] end to foreign rule in Ireland, to establish a 32-County Democratic Socialist Republic based on the Proclamation of 1916, to restore the Irishh language and culture to a position of strength, and to promote a social order badged on justice and Christian principles which will give everyone a just share of the nation’s wealth. These are objectives which have always had the support of the majority of our people, thought at times they may not have been expressed in precisely the same terms.
The piece continues by offering a history since partition, and includes a somewhat sympathetic overview of the Civil Rights struggle.
As noted above the contents includes an interesting article on ‘What the 1916 Rising Meant’ and a most interesting article regarding Comhar na gComharsan (Neighbours Cooperation), a manifesto on economic and social thinking.
Workers’ Party Position on Right to Choose February 23, 2016Posted by Garibaldy in Workers' Party.
A statement from the AAA-PBP misrepresents the WP’s long-held position on the right to choose, so this is being posted in order to help clarify what it is. The AAA-PBP statement contains in the following:
“Six parties have now committed to repealing the 8th in their election manifesto: AAA-PBP, Workers Party, Labour, Sinn Fein, Social Democrats, Green Party – this has never happened before and represents significant progress. However, apart from AAA-PBP, all of these parties either want to introduce restrictive legislation, or have not made their post-repeal position clear, and none of them support a woman’s right to choose.”
The Workers’ Party manifesto in fact contains the following on page 11
The Workers’ Party recognises that women have the right to control their own bodies, including their fertility, and to pursue all reproductive choices. This is fundamental to any reasonable concept of gender equality in order to achieve full political, social, and economic equality with men.
The Workers’ Party rejects the paternalistic attitude that regards women as second class citizens incapable of making their own decisions. The Workers’ Party supports a full programme of secular sex education for schools, free access to contraception, proper health and social care for pregnant women, the provision of appropriate free and quality child care facilities and adequate support for single and low income parents.
The Workers’ Party believes in a woman’s right to choose and supports the provision of free and safe abortion in Ireland which will include practical facilities to support women seeking an abortion and quality post-abortion care.
It’s a bit bizarre that the AAA-PBP can make this mistake.
Left Archive: Éire Nua, Republican Sinn Féin, 1990 February 15, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Republican Sinn Féin.
add a comment
To download the above please click on the following link. EIRENUARSF
Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.
This is a very interesting document, a reworked Éire Nua from Republican Sinn Féin. This edition was published in 1990. As might be expected it restates the broader administrative aspects of the original Éire Nua produced by the then leadership of Provisional Sinn Féin in the 1970s. But it is much less detailed in respect to social, political and economic organisation than that earlier document.
It argues under the heading ‘A New Beginning’ that:
This programme can be our instrument to build a sound future for our nation. The programme embraces all the people of Ireland; it provides for a system in which all creeds and traditions can be represented and all citizens can exercise real power, without any group infringing on the the rights of others. The alternative to the forging of a New Ireland is to endure the present affliction – perhaps in the blind hope that our politicians their EC friends will somehow magically find ways to transform our present debilitated, impoverished and undemocratic society into a nation that is strong, prosperous and democratic.
And it calls for ‘a new constitution’ and ‘a new government structure’. The former would incorporate a ‘Charter of Rights’ which would itself incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights.
As with the original Éire Nua the government structure would be a ‘federation of the four provinces of Ireland under the co-ordination of a national parliament, with powers devolved through regional administrative councils to local bodies, so that at all levels citizens may have an effective voice in their own governance’.
Dáil Éireann would be the national parliament, comprising representatives from all 32 counties. However, Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht would all have regional/provincial government. The new Dáil would incorporate 50 per cent of the Deputies from direct elections and another 50 per cent from the provincial parliaments.
The document includes maps of the new administrative and political divisions. The site of the Parliament of Ulster would be sited at Dungannon while that of Connacht would be in Tuam. Athlone would become the National capital. Notably the front cover of the document was designed by Robert Ballagh.
Left Archive: Banshee: Journal of Irishwomen United, No. 7, Irish Women United, February 1977 February 8, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Women United (Banshee magazine).
1 comment so far
To download the above please click on the following link. BANSHEE GO
Many thanks to bobcat for forwarding this document to the Archive.
Banshee – Journal of Irishwoman United is an important addition to the collection of documents, particularly as it is an avowedly feminist publication.
On the inside front page it notes in answer to the question ‘What is Irish Women United?’:
We are a group of Women’s liberationists who believe that the best perspective for struggle against women’s oppression in Ireland lies in an ongoing fight around the charter of demands printed here.
We came together originally in April 1975 as a few individual women interested in the idea of building a conference to discuss a charter; what its demands would be and how a campaign should be built.
At this conference on June 8th, attended by approximately 100 women, we constituted ourselves as a separate group, Irish Women United – the only criteria for joining to be agreement on the demands of the charter.
Irish Women United works on the basis of general meetings (discussions and action planning, at present every week in Dublin), join actions (e.g. pickets, public meetings, workshops at press present on women in trade unions, contraception, social welfare and political theory) and consciousness-raising groups.
The scope of the publication is considerable with a broad range of issues addressed in the full 16 pages. These include pieces on Body Image, the Catholic Church (under the heading Father Church), four pages on ‘Women at Work’, one on Equal Pay, another on ‘Telephonists equal pay strike’. A further piece discusses The Natural Superiority of Women. There’s letters from readers, a page of poems and the Charter mentioned in the piece above is printed on the last page.
It is reasonable to suggest that it takes a left of centre approach – not least in its emphasis on union action, women workers rights and so on. And this review by Mary Cullen in History Ireland of Linda Connelly’s ‘The Irish Womena’s Movement: from revolution to devolution’ confirms that:
After a few years [the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement] was succeeded by Irishwomen United, a more consciously left-wing grouping which was characterised by internal ideological debate and argument among feminists who were also variously socialists, nationalists, republicans, lesbians, and radicals. There was also increasing co-operation between the newer feminists and the longer-established groups.
This is emphasised in many aspects of the Charter which while acknowledging different approaches amongst feminists pledges to ‘challenge and fight sexism in all forms and oppose all forms of exploitation of women which keep them oppressed. These demands are all part of the essential right of women to self-determination of our own lives – equality in education and work; control of our own bodies; an adequate standard of living and freedom from sexist conditioning.
The main points of the Charter are:
1. The removal of all legal and bureaucratic obstacles to equality.
2. Free Legal Contraception
3. The recognition of motherhood and parenthood as a social function with special provision
4. Equality in Education – state-financed, secular, co-educational schools with full commjunit control at all levels.
5. The male rate of the job where men and women are working together.
6. State provision of funds and premised for the establishment of someone’s centres…
7. The right of all women to a self-determined sexuality.
The editorial mentions the recent banning of British feminist magazine ‘Spare Rib’ in the Republic and positions that banning within a broader web of anti-women laws including the fact that contraception was then illegal, as was reading about contraception. It also notes how the Project Arts Centre ‘lost it’s grant
because it presented two plays about homosexuality…a television series ‘Executive Suite’ was withdrawn because it dealt with abortion and lesbianism’.
As feminists we recognise these actions as forming a common consensus by the Irish establishment to deny women the right to control their own fertility and to freely choose and express their sexuality.
We will fight this assault on our rights, at ever level, and particularly we will continue to buy and read the literature of our choice.