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Left Archive: Tory Cuts, Common Misery, Common Struggle, Peter Hadden: A ‘Labour and Trade Union Group’ pamphlet, 1980. November 2, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Labour and Trade Union Group, Militant, Socialist Party.
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To download the above please click on the following link. LAB&TUGRP1980

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

This is a very useful addition to the Archive, coming from the Labour and Trade Union Group, which was the name Labour Militant organised under in Northern Ireland (due to the lack of organisation there by either the British Labour Party or the Irish Labour Party.

A piece at the end of the pamphlet notes that:

The Labour and Trade Union Group is an organisation of socialists and trade unionists spread throughout the North. Since our formation in 1974 we have been campaigning consistently for WORKERS UNITY and SOCIALIST POLICIES. We believe that the trade union movement, with 300,000 members, has the main role to plain in achieving these goals.

It also references the Youth for Socialism campaign.

The title page has two main aims:

For Workers’ Unity against the Tory Cuts.

For a Mass Party of Labour.

The contents is arranged in sections, ‘Fight the Tory Cuts’, ‘Northern Ireland Poverty’, ‘Mass Action and a Socialist Policy’, ‘For A Labour Party’ and ‘The Border’.

On this last it notes:

In reality, the struggle for socialism in Ireland, NOrth and South is one struggle. It would be impossible to conceive of a socialist Northern Ireland divided from a socialist Southern Ireland by a frail and artificial line on a map.
The reunification of the country on a socialist basis would only be an extension of the unity ins truffle of the working class, North and South. Put in this manner, not posed as a sectarian and divisive issue, the quesition of the border can be faced by Labour, North and South.

Left Archive: “Crisis in the “Tiger”?”: Building the Socialist Party – Statement on Southern Ireland, October 1999 March 16, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Party.


To download the above please click on the following link. SP1999

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.

This is another addition to the collection of Socialist Party documents in the Left Archive. Published for the Socialist Party Conference in 1999 it notes in the Introduction that:

This statement will attempt to deal with the main developments in southern society over the last year. There will also be statements on trade union and youth perspectives and tasks. All should be red in conduction with each other.

It continues that:

The discussion at this year’s conference is one of the most important in the history of the party in the south. It is taking place amid indications on the one hand of a growing offensive movement of workers on pay as well as signs that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the ‘Celtic Tiger’.

These developments will dramatically change the political situation over the next period. Along the way there can be ebbs and flows. For instance the first nurse’s strike in the history of the state is due to place on October 19th. While it seems very unlikely, it couldn’t be ruled out that something could happen at the last minute to suspect the action. However, given the breadth of unrest and the depth of anger that exists, a suspension of the nurse’s action won’t itself cut across the real possibly of a more generalised movement of workers developing over the next year.

It suggests that:

In fact the party should be prepared that dramatic changes can erupt immediately.

And it further suggests that:

Members should not underestimate the significance and impact of the Ansbacher revelations. This is not just another scandal that will go over the heads of a public already weary of tales of corruption. It comes at a terrible time for the government and undermines the establishment’s ability to wage an ideological offensive to dampen down worker’s expectations.

It warns that:

At the same time we are facing into a new period of radicalisation, we need to register that there has been a qualitative change in how our party is seen by a key section of activists and youth. More and more people are concluding that there is a real prospect that a new development on the left is taking shape around the Socialist Party.

It notes that:

The NEC believes that there is not enough understanding in the party of the real potential exits. That is why our conference discussion is so important.

And it concludes:

Doubling, trebling and quadrupling our size and influence over the next two to three years is entirely. The idea that growth will inevitably be slow, in just ones and twos needs to be challenged. In the context of a good discussion on perspectives the party and every member needs to completely review our approach to recruitment and building. The key task of the conference is to help establish better attitudes on these issues, a clear understanding of our priorities, how we propose to achieve them and crucially the role that each member can play.

There are a number of sections including ‘the delay in the international recession’, ‘Prospects for the ‘Celtic Tiger’’, ‘Inequality, political consciousness and the vacuum on the left’, ‘The result of this June’s Elections’, ‘Members underestimate the potential for growth’ and considerable detail in the analysis of all those and others.

Some quotes give a sense of this:

Despite their attempts to portray it as an historic re-alignment of the left, the merger of DL into Labour created no enthusiasm whatsoever. Tensions may have intensified inside Labour as a result but they do not flow from a conflict between more left-wing DL types and the Labour establishment. It is a jockeying for positions and careers.

The Greens held on to their MEP seats in Dublin and Leinster showing there is a basis for small parties to build on gains already achieved. The fact that they suffered reverser in the locals, however, confirms our perspective that this party will not play a significant role in filing the vacuum on the left.

The document concludes under the heading ‘Building a small mass revolutionary party’.

The Socialist Party can become a small mass revolutionary partying in the South over the next years. A party with one thousand activists, with workers and community leaders, a parliamentary fraction in the Dáil and a vibrant young wing would in Irish sterns constitute such a party.

Such a force would be able to influence developments in the workers movements as well as lead semi-mass and mass movements like the water charges campaign but on a national level.

We have positioned ourselves firmly on this road by our work over the last year. Now we need to imbue the whole party with a sense of the historic opportunities that are about to open up.

Irish Left Archive: Photographs of Joe Higgins and Tony Gregory on Moore Street July 10, 2014

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Left Independents, Socialist Party.

Here’s an interesting addition to the Archive, three photographs taken, presumably as part of a PR shoot, of Independent TD, Tony Gregory and Joe Higgins TD of the Socialist Party on Moore Street. The Archive would be very grateful for any further details such as when they were taken.

Also, the Archive is open to photographs and (generally) non-electoral posters from the Left across the years to start building up a collection of same. So, any contributions gratefully accepted.




SP/AAA and PBPA/SWP results — an alternative reading June 3, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in AAA, PBPA, Socialist Party.

In the local election, both the Anti Austerity Alliance and the People Before Profit Alliance won 14 seats. Those figures have been hailed by both groupings as successes, and they certainly are when compared with the number of seats they had before the council elections. Adrian Kavanagh, of NUI Maynooth, has described their results as especially good.

I wondered to what extent the two outcomes are due to the two parties/alliances distinguishing themselves and to what extent are they due to getting their “share” of the votes for “none of the above” (that is, none the mainstream parties). Put another way, the question is: if the AAA and PBPA candidates had simply run as independents, would have have fared better or worse on average than they did as AAA or PBPA candidates?

The answer is: they did a small bit above average. It would seem that the rising tide of “others” that the opinion pollers lump the AAA and PBPA into may simply have lifted the AAA and PBPA to their 14 seats each. Sums are below the “fold”.



Left Archive: Northern Ireland Perspectives – A Militant Pamphlet, 1988 June 24, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Militant, Socialist Party.


To download the above document please click on the following link: MILITANT NORTHER PERSP

The text of this document is available here, but as always the idea is to present not only the text of a document but a copy of it as it was published (and also to have as wide a sampling of documentation in the Archive as is possible).

On Marxists.org it is noted that Peter Hadden wrote this and most other documents relating to Northern Ireland. Ten pages long and written in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Agreement interestingly the Introduction focuses very strongly on the situation in Britain:

That the Tories could win a third consecutive term, despite their reactionary policies, is a searing indictment of the role of the right-wing Labour and trade union leaders over recent years. The fact that these leaders moved to the right, abandoned left and socialist policies, and distanced themselves from the struggles of the miners, print unions, Liverpool Council and others, allowed the Tories to go to the country with a significant lead in the opinion polls.
During the campaign Kinnock and his right-wing handlers singularly failed to present any socialist alternative to the Tories. They relied on slick presentation which was all form and no content. The right-wing argument that socialist ideas lose votes was definitively answered by the result. According to the right, Labour fought a brilliant campaign – yet they lost moreover in those areas where the campaign and candidate were most closely associated with the right wing Labour generally got the worst result. Bryan Gould, the party’s campaign manager, managed to produce a 8.3% swing to the Tories in his own seat.

And continues:

Compare this with the achievement of four Militant supporters who fought on a clear socialist programme: Pat Wall – 9.9% swing from the SDP in Bradford North; Dave Nellist – 5.3% swing to Labour from the Tories in Coventry SE; John Bryan – 3.6% Liberal to Labour swing in Bermondsey (overall in London there was a 0.5% swing from Labour to the Tories); and Terry Fields who produced a 12.4% swing from the Tories and almost doubled his majority in Liverpool Broadgreen.
The Tories won because of the failure of the Labour leaders and because they were able to partially disguise the real depths of the economic malaise which afflicts British capitalism. The election took place in the latter period of the current shaky boom in the world economy. Looming on the horizon is the prospect of a new recession at a certain stage. This Tory government, with its programme of further assaults on living standards and services will be confronted by huge movements of the working class.

And concludes in relation to this:

Even now, in this period of “boom” there has been an up-turn in the class struggle as workers have moved to demand their share of the fruits of economic growth. Defeated on the political front the working class will now have no choice but to turn to the industrial front.

In relation to Northern Ireland it suggests:

These struggles will leave their mark within the unions and within the Labour Party as workers attempt to push their organisations to the left. What has already taken place within the CPSA and the NCU is a harbinger of future developments within the labour movement as a whole. Despite the conflicting factor of sectarianism the same processes are at work in the North. The Anglo-Irish Agreement is less of a central issue than at the time this document was written. The opposition of the mass of Protestants to the accord has in no way abated.
But, as the Marxists predicted in advance, the Agreement in reality has proved inoperable and has not been implemented. During the first six months of 1987 the previously much vaunted Anglo-Irish Conference has met on a grand total of two occasions! Nothing of note has come from these meetings.

And that:

Moreover the British government has been at pains to appease the Unionists. The Anglo-Irish Agreement is no longer presented as an historic breakthrough or as the basis for the final solution of the Irish question. Northern Ireland Tory spokesmen now talk of the Agreement remaining in place until something better can be negotiated. Again, as the Marxists predicted at the outset, far from concessions, the pact has produced increased repression in the Catholic areas. Loughgall not Hillsborough is the watchword of the present policy of the ruling class. Despite the opening of the talks between the Unionists and government any way out of the current political impasse is as far away as ever. It cannot be too often emphasized that no solution is possible on a capitalist basis.
Even given the relative downturn in the level of sectarian violence the situation remains explosive. The breakdown of talks, the loyalist assassination campaign and the deliberately provocative escalation of the Provos’ campaign are all factors which could flip the scales in the direction of renewed sectarian bloodletting.

On a more positive note it argues that:

Nonetheless the mood of the mass of workers, Catholic and Protestant is not at present in favour of sectarian conflict. As sectarian issues have receded class issues have come to the fore. As in Britain the period immediately before and after the election has seen a sharp up-turn in the class struggle, significant strikes – by civil servants, teachers, Telecom workers, in the shipyard, in Shorts, the meat plants and in other workplaces – have taken place.
Even bigger movements of the working class and of the youth are likely in the short term, but certain at some stage in the life of this government. So, paradoxically, the election defeat in Britain can act as a powerful spur to the industrial movement of the working class in the North.

And continues:

Just as the sectarian reaction of the past eighteen months unfolded in an uneven manner, so the development of the class movement will be likewise uneven. But excluding major developments which can throw things back, the most likely general line of development will be to the left.
In this context the previous perspectives of the Marxists, temporarily cut across by the Anglo-Irish Agreement, for a transformation and re-transformation of the unions and the creation of a Labour Party at a certain stage, will tend to be borne out.
The analysis and programme of Militant have been graphically confirmed and re-confirmed by recent events. Only on the basis of the socialist ideas we put forward can there be a way out for the working class. We have proved our ability to retain and develop these ideas under unfavourable conditions. Now events are beginning to move in our favour. The challenge now is to seize the opportunities which will present themselves and develop Marxism into a mass force among the working class.

The main bulk of the document goes into greater detail, not least in an analysis as to the rationale behind the Anglo-Irish Agreement which suggests that:

Thatcher’s handling of the 1981 hunger strikes won her government a pyrrhic victory. The prisoners were defeated but at the cost of the alienation of the Catholic population. Thatcher’s unnecessary, and, from a bourgeois point of view, stupid intransigence provided Sinn Fein with its electoral base. The hold, even the existence, of the SDLP was threatened.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was an attempt to put this right by isolating the Provos and boosting the SDLP. On every count it has been a gross miscalculation. Trying to correct one mistake the ruling class have merely compounded it with another. The problem of the minority remains unresolved but is now added to by the even bigger problem of the majority.
The roots of this miscalculation lie in the government’s false estimation of the Protestant reaction to the accord. Thatcher’s original conception that the mass of Protestants would come to see the Agreement as no threat to them lies in ruins. Because of the ham-fisted manner of its introduction and because it appears to go further than it does, it has aroused such a fierce Protestant opposition that the entire thing is and will remain completely inoperable.

It is however notable how pessimistic the tone is at times:

Paisley and more particularly the “young Turks” within the DUP have been permitted to move centre stage. Future mass loyalist reaction, should it develop, would crystallise around such people. It would encompass hardliners in both Unionist parties, groups like the Ulster Clubs, the UDR ranks, and in its ultimate stages, the RUC also. The loyalist paramilitaries would be brought into tow of such a movement providing its physical force battalions.
Reaction has not reached such a stage. So the “armies” formed by Paisley retain, even now, an evanescent character, yet they are not to be dismissed. Such forces are a quite serious threat in the short term. Actions such as the sealing off of villages could precipitate pogroms. Were the Anglo-Irish Agreement to be implemented these forces could swell and become a vehicle for armed reaction. They give a glimpse of what will happen in the long term if the labour movement does not provide a socialist way out for the mass of Protestant and Catholic workers.

In sum a most interesting document in relation to the views of Militant during this particular period.

Left Archive: Women & Socialist Politics – Socialist Party, c.1998 April 29, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Party.
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To download this please click on the following link: SP WOMENS LEAFLET

Many thanks to Joan Collins for forwarding this to the Archive.

This is an interesting document issued by the Socialist Party around 1998 which engages with issues around Women and Socialist Politics.

The introductory piece argues that given the ‘increasing radicalisation of women’ as a part of ‘social struggle’ and that ‘women have been to the forefront in defending their communities against the heroin plague and are playing an increasing role in trade unions, most clearly seen in the Dunnes Stores’ strikes’ that ‘The Socialist Party seeks to be the voice of these fighters who will play a crucial role in the struggle for a new society based on the needs of people rather than profit, thereby laying the basis for genuine equality between women and men’.

It argues that the ‘liberal agenda’, that is ‘the winning of the right to distribute information on abortion, the right to divorce, and more broadly the ending of the Catholic Church’s veto on social legislation are undoubtedly important gains’, but it continues ‘however, it needs to be emphasised that these changes war more the product of broader social change impacting the attitudes and struggles of working class people rather than of the enlightened intervention of middle class intellectuals’. And it argues that ‘the most important point though is that while change has occurred, it is still far short of producing anything remotely approaching equality for women. Nor has the political establishment of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ any perspective for how to achieve the fundamental changes which are needed.

It states that ‘we believe the struggle for women’s rights should be part of the overall struggle for change in our society. it is the bosses system which benefits from the oppression of women’. And it also argues that ‘while fighting for every defence of the gains won by women in the past and for even advance in the present situation, our struggle will continue until we fundamentally change society, to a socialist society where all oppression is ended’ which it argues is the only way of guaranteeing full equality between men and women.

It concludes:

We believe that these are not just aspirations, they are worth fighting for and can be achieved. As the great Irish socialist, James Connolly said; “There are none so fitted to break the chains as those who wear them’.

Other articles argue ‘For progressive social legislation’ with particular focus on the X case, and for action on the issue of violence against women as well as ‘For the full social and economic liberation of women’. In each instance the position of the SP is outlined in some detail. For example in relation to the first it argues amongst other points:

– for legislation to give effect to the ‘X’ case judgement
– Remove the constitutional ban on abortion.
– Full family planning information and counselling to be provided free of charge through the health service.
– No to exporting our problems abroad. For the provision of abortion in Ireland through the health service

The leaflet also outlines SP party policy on the heroin crisis, health and education. And as with much of the material output by the party it concludes with the following:

The Socialist Party stands for a truly secular democratic and socialist society. The Socialist Party stands for taking power out of the hands of the bankers, speculators and wealthy industrialists and transferring it to those who do the work and create the wealth, working class people. We stand for public ownership and democratic socialist planing of the key areas of the economic activity.

Clare Daly resigns from the Socialist Party September 1, 2012

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Socialist Party.

New thread for discussion.


On Friday 31 August Clare Daly TD handed in a letter of resignation to the Socialist Party. We feel obliged to give notice of this development and to offer some initial comments.

The Socialist Party sincerely regrets that after many years in our ranks, Clare Daly TD has decided to resign from the party.

Clare’s decision is a setback and undoubtedly will be met with surprise and shock from activists in the labour and trade union movement and on the left. However, it is a setback that the Socialist Party will recover from and the members of the party and its public representatives, including Paul Murphy MEP, Joe Higgins TD and our six councillors, will continue with our principled approach to campaigning and will continue to argue for the socialist alternative so desperately needed at this time of profound capitalist crisis.

This statement outlines the Socialist Party’s view as to why Clare Daly has taken this course of action. In our view, the fundamental reason for Clare’s resignation is that she now places more value on her political connection with Independent TD Mick Wallace than on the political positions and work of the Socialist Party.

Over the last number of months, Clare’s political connection to Mick Wallace, who engaged in tax evasion and the falsification of VAT returns, has damaged her reputation but also, by implication, has potentially damaged the reputation of the Socialist Party.

Clare’s approach has unfortunately also given the establishment and sections of the media the opportunity to attempt to undermine the Campaign Against Household & Water Taxes (CAHWT), which is a vital campaign in the battle against the disastrous policies of austerity.

The Socialist Party condemned Mick Wallace’s actions and demanded that he use whatever resources he has to pay the outstanding money immediately to the Revenue Commissioners. We did not go along with the chorus of demands for his immediate resignation. This was not because we in any way support Mick Wallace. It was because we think it is the place of voters, not the pro big business media to determine who should be a TD.

In contrast, Clare Daly offered political support to Mick Wallace despite the opposition of the Socialist Party to her acting in this way. Clare publicly vouched for Mick Wallace and his fitness for office, intervened on his behalf and consciously and consistently sat beside him in the Dáil which amounted to public political endorsement. Her actions and words were seized on by sections of the media to link the left in general and the Socialist Party in particular to Mick Wallace.

Clare refused to support or put her name to Socialist Party statements regarding Mick Wallace, including one which defended the party after he directly attacked the party and others on the left in the Dáil on 18 July.

Clare Daly’s promotion of Mick Wallace in the anti-household tax campaign late last year and early this year, despite his tax evasion, was a reckless misjudgement. The CAHWT is opposed to Mick Wallace having any involvement in the Campaign and the Socialist Party supports this stance.

Since the start of June, leading members of the Socialist Party have repeatedly met and discussed with Clare in a genuine attempt to positively resolve these differences and limit the damage to all concerned. Unfortunately, Clare did not seriously engage in those discussions and ignored the advice offered.

Clare’s resignation reflects the fact that her actions and approach resulted in a complete breakdown in the political and working relations between her and the Socialist Party nationally, in the Dáil and between her and the branches of the Socialist Party in the Dublin North constituency.

This situation also reflected two aspects in Clare’s approach that unfortunately have become apparent since her election as a TD in February 2011.

Clare has tended to politically orientate to the Independent members of the Technical Group in the Dáil. This has gone beyond working on specific issues to build the strongest possible campaigns, which is an approach we agree with. In Clare’s case, it was also co-operation and collaboration of a broader political character with Independents instead of trying to build the profile of the United Left Alliance (ULA) and a new left movement on a principled left and socialist basis.

Clare has also not worked in a genuinely collective way with her colleagues in the Socialist Party. Instead, she has avoided democratic discussion as well as the democratic check and accountability of the party’s elected structures and members. Democratic discussion and the accountability of public representatives is essential in any party that claims to represent working class people.

We have no difficulty in recognising Clare’s many years of hard work, her outstanding record and the public esteem in which she is held. All of this was achieved as a Socialist Party activist. This makes the approach that she has adopted and her resignation from the party all the more disappointing for the many members who worked with her through the years and who also played an important role in achieving her election to the Dáil.

The Socialist Party is disappointed by this turn of events but it will not deter us from the tasks at hand.

The household tax, the property tax and the impending imposition of water charges pose unique opportunities for working class people to fight against austerity and potentially defeat this Government. This campaign is approaching a crucial point this autumn and the Socialist Party will do everything in its power to ensure that it is successful. In the North our members will continue to fight for working class unity and against sectarianism and we will continue to argue for a socialist alternative to sectarian politics and the misery of unemployment and poverty.

In these campaigns, in the ULA and generally, we will also redouble our efforts to win support for the genuine socialist policies that alone can end this capitalist crisis by using the wealth and resources of society for the benefit of the majority and not the super rich.


Quick Impressions of the NI Assembly Elections May 7, 2011

Posted by Garibaldy in Democratic Unionist Party, Irish Republican Socialist Party, Northern Ireland, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers' Party, Workers' Party.

Results so far (early hours of Saturday morning but should be updated regularly).

A very good day for the DUP; a very bad one for the UUP and TUV.

SF has done well, SDLP not so well.

Alliance has done very well, including topping the poll in South Belfast.

DUP/SF increasingly dominant – around twice as many votes as their UUP/SDLP rivals.

Greens in with a real chance of a seat in North Down.

Dawn Purvis nearly certain to lose her seat, and Brian Ervine won’t retake it for the PUP.

Very good election for the PBPA, although I’m not sure there will be enough transfers for McCann to take the seat looking at how close the SDLP candidate ranked 7th is after the first count, and vote of lowest place SF and SDLP candidates. West Belfast result also eye-catching, more than doubling the vote to 1661 (4.8%). Please correct me if this is a mistake but looking at Belfast City Council’s list of candidates for west Belfast constituences, I don’t think the PBPA is standing in the local council elections in west Belfast, making it harder to judge to what those votes are overwhelmingly a core PBPA vote, or if some have been leant to them by éirígí/IRSP-type voters given that these parties aren’t standing in the Assembly election, but are standing in the council. I heard one estimate that put éirígí on around 1,000 (I think for both Upper and Lower Falls combined, but forgot to ask) although the council counting will be much slower than the Assembly.

Results in south and east Belfast for the left could have been better but the PBPA will think it did quite well in south Belfast. This is fairly worring given that they would have in the past been places the left would have looked to for growth.

The Socialist Party will probably be most pleased with its 384 votes in west Belfast (1.1%) out of the constituencies where it ran, while the south and east Belfast votes are fairly static.

The Workers’ Party vote in east and south Belfast is pretty static, but more than doubled in North Belfast (possibly the most sectarian electoral area in NI) to 332 (1%), its highest vote there since the early 1990s and had the highest number and percentage for more than a decade in west Belfast (586, 1.7%).

The total vote for the WP, PBPA, and SP is close to 7,500, (1.1% of the overall vote), with most of it going to the PBPA as expected. If you were to take Dawn Purvis’s 1,700-odd votes as primarily left votes (and there are reasons not to), about 1.4%. This gives a pretty sobering assessment of where the left stands in NI, especially when you remember the disproportionate percentage of the vote achieved by two candidates.

The council elections results are going to be more interesting still in light of these results, especially in Derry.

Left Archive: Revolution in Ireland 1798, Socialist Party (Ireland), 1998 August 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Party.

To download the document above in PDF format please click on the following link:SP REVIRL 1798 BINDER

Many thanks to Budapestkick for forwarding this document to the Archive. He raises the interesting point that it would be well worth while comparing and contrasting it with other 1798 commemorative documents from other formations. If people have any and are willing to forward them onto the Archive – using the contact email on the right hand column of this site – that would be very helpful.

This is the first document from the Socialist Party added to the Archive, which demonstrates a hitherto considerable gap in the collection. We hope to remedy that in the weeks and months that follow – although we do have a reasonable quantity of Militant material already online here.

This is a fairly lavish document which contains a series of short articles on aspects of 1798 by different authors. The introduction, entitled ‘1798 – Myth versus Reality’ discusses the large amount of writing on 1798 and its meaning that appeared in the years before 1998. The Socialist Party’s aims in producing the pamphlet were as follows

We are producing this pamphlet in order to make available to the left wing public some of the findings of more recent historical research as well as our own analysis of the importance of the revolutionary events of the 1790s for the workers’ movement today.
The aim is not to produce a comprehensive history but rather to focus on some of the key facets of the revolution including the role of artisan workers in Belfast, the Wexford and Ulster risings, the connection with the French Revolution and the ways in which the history of the rising has been manipulated.

The introduction goes on to account for 1798 in terms of social and religious inequality within Ireland in the eighteenth century, and the influence of the American and French revolutions. It acknowledged that the extent to which the Defenders had moved beyond sectarianism is far from clear. It argued that the working class played a decisive role in the French Revolution and in Ireland, but was incapable of taking power for itself. It then discusses how people have sought to use 1798 for political purposes since the late nineteenth century. It rejected the idea that 1798 justified the position of Sinn Féin in 1998.

In fact, it is not possible to make a simple analogy between the situation in late 18th century Ireland and today

It then discussed what it saw as the failings of nationalism and unionism, and said that the defeat of a radicalised labour movement in the period 1917-23 led to the creation of two sectarian states in Ireland. The introduction concludes:

Understanding what really happened in the past and dispelling Orange and Green myths is indeed vital. But it is only by combining historical understanding with a working class socialist programme, which among other things recognises that this island’s bitter history has now created two minorities – Catholics within the North and Protestants on an all-Ireland basis – that a progressive solution to the national question can be found.

The next chapter is an extract from John Gray’s The Sans Culottes of Belfast. Gray was the Librarian of the Linenhall Library, and not a member of the Socialist Party. His pamphlet stemmed from his 1991 May Day lecture which marked the bicentenary of the foundation of the United Irishmen. In the words of the SP preamble to this extract:

The extract focuses on strikes by cotton and linen weavers in Ulster in 1792, the high point of artisan working class militancy in the 1790s. It clearly illustrates the tensions between the pro-capitalist leadership of the United Irishmen and the interests of workers who were increasingly prominent in the revolutionary movement of the 1790s.

Ruth Coppinger’s account of 1798 in Wexford attacked the Faith and Fatherland version that emerged in the late nineteenth century, and argued that events in Wexford were the result of deliberate and careful planning rather than the spontaneous response of an oppressed peasantry. She also defended the Wexford United Irishmen against the charge of sectarianism, despite what are termed the breakdowns of discipline at Scullabogue and Wexford Bridge. She stated that:

The attempt to claim 1798 for one political or religious tradition should be ended in this bicentenary commemoration. The shared political project of the United Irishmen should be studied and discussed, now more than ever. The defeat of the 1798 rebellion marked a sad end to a century which had shown the potential to unite people of all religions in a republic in the true, original sense of the word.

Anton McCabe looked at 1798 in the north, arguing that it cannot be reduced to Antrim and Down, and focusing on west Ulster. It was a more straightforwardly historical account than the others, but finished by noting the fate of William Henry Hamilton of Enniskillen after Emmet’s Rebellion of 1803.

As a revolutionary, he personified all that was internationalist about the United Irishmen, and died fighting in the army of Simon Bolivar for the liberation of South America from the Spanish Empire.

Tom Crean looked at Ireland and the French Revolution. Much of this article is taken up with a description of the French Revolution on the grounds that to understand Ireland’s relationship to the French Revolution, it is necessary to understand the French Revolution itself. Crean also stressed the internationalism of the United Irishmen.

The United Irishmen were a consciously internationalist force inspired by the most profoundly revolutionary events the world had yet seen. Whatever their weaknesses, if there is one thing that socialists can draw inspiration from, it is this spirit of thoroughgoing internationalism.

Eoin Magennis’s concluding chapter examined the way 1798 had been remembered and the way its history had been rewritten, from as early as 1799. He noted how the commemorations of the bicentenary were linked to the peace process.

But in 1998, the “peace process” is in bloom, the Celtic Tiger roars and an assertive bourgeoisie finds it convenient to rediscover Wolfe Tone and his comrades as the forefathers of a more tolerant, secular national identity. This is all connected to the much ballyhooed – and essentially non-existent – reconciliation between the North’s “traditions.”

An interesting document then, and although – inevitably – research on this area has progressed subsequently it provides a good overview of thinking at the time. It is therefore useful for what it tells us about the SP’s view of Irish history and about the views of others on the United Irishmen.

The Left Archive: Divide and Rule – Labour and the Partition of Ireland, Peter Hadden, Militant, 1980 May 11, 2010

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Politics, Militant, Socialist Party, Uncategorized.


It seems perhaps appropriate given the sad loss of Peter Hadden of the Socialist Party last week that we might mark that with a Left Archive piece which we had intended to run later in the Summer.

This document, published by Militant in 1980, which if I recall correctly was donated by Jim Monaghan – for which many thanks, provides a good insight into the style and approach of Peter Hadden in his work, research and analysis.

The document itself engages with a very particular historical moment in the development of the left on the island of Ireland during the 1910s and more broadly with the issue of partition and the role of Labour.

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