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Left Archive/Irish Left Open History Project: ‘Miscellaneous Notes On Republicanism And Socialism In Cork City, 1954–69’ By Jim Lane (Cork, 2005) August 17, 2015

Posted by leftopenhistoryteam in Irish Left Open History Project.
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[Protest in Cork against the Vietnam War, 1967. From left to right: Gerry Higgins, Jim Savage, Jim Lane, Jim McCarthy, Derry McCarthy, Noel Lane, Jim Blake, George Sisk, Gerry Madden, Barty Madden, Tom McCarthy.]

What follows deals almost entirely with internal divisions within Cork republicanism and is not meant as a comprehensive outline of republican and left-wing activities in the city during the period covered. Moreover, these notes were put together following specific queries from historical researchers and, hence, the focus at times is on matters that they raised.’ (Miscellaneous Notes, p.1)

We’re reposting this – which was originally written by Conor McCabe, because the link to the document below was broken some while back. It is now fixed and will be added into the Archive. 

[Download Miscellaneous Notes on Republicanism and Socialism in Cork City, 1954-69.]

We will be covering the various aspects of Jim Lane’s activism as a Socialist and Republican at a later date, but for now here is a copy of his recollections of the period 1954 to 1969. It touches on his involvement with the IRA campaign of the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as the Cork-based Irish Revolutionary Forces, and the publications An Phoblacht (Cork), and People’s Voice. The pamphlet ends with 1969 and the outbreak of the Troubles.

Last September (2009) I interviewed Jim in his home in Cork. We talked for about five hours. Below is a short eighteen-minute extract from that interview, where Jim talks about the Irish Revolutionary Forces (IRF), as well as the attraction which Maoism held for the IRF at that time.

Jim explained this a little further to me in a recent correspondence:

“Sean Daly (ex IRA at the time) and myself met Hardial Bains and the other leaders of the Internationalists in 1968. Sean Daly is the person mentioned several times in my Miscellaneous Notes……. We met with the intention of working together to build a Marxist-Leninist type party in Ireland. We certainly had a great issue with them about their methods of work in Ireland, among other matters. Suffice to say, we didn’t reach an agreement on the way forward. However, we did agree to remain in touch. Prominent in their group then and in the years that followed were; David Vipond, John Dowling, Arthur Allen and Carole Reekes. Hardial Bains of Indian birth was based in Canada.

As I may have said to you in our conversations last year, we were attracted to the line of the Chinese Communist Party, after we had studied the publication, The Polemic on the General Line of the International Communist Movement, (China, 1965). For us here in Ireland in the 1960’s, we saw Mao and his party as advocates of armed revolutionary struggle, whereas the Soviet Union favoured the ‘ peaceful road to Socialism, by Parliamentary means’ . Is it any wonder why Irish Socialist Republicans began to take an interest in the writings of Mao Tse-Tung back in the 1960’s. Mythology has led many students of republican development in the 60’s, to believe that all those who opposed ‘the left-wing drift’, were ‘right-wing red necks’. Not so, many who were conveniently referred to as ‘Maoists’ within and without the Republican fold, were in fact those who were struggling to uphold true socialist revolutionary concepts.”

[The MP3 file of the interview extract is below. Please keep in mind that it is only a short section, and that Jim spoke for almost five hours without notes. My own contributions are a little hazy to say the least. However, it gives a great sense of the man, I hope, as well as some interesting insights on the period.]

Jim Lane Sept 2009

For more click here.

Poster for John Lumsden -Irish Worker League – 1930 Local Elections Dublin March 20, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish History, Workers League.
5 comments

From the 1930 Local Elections a poster for John Lumsden of The Irish Worker League who was running in Area Number 5. He polled a respectable 611 votes but failed to win a seat. Party Colleague Jim Larkin was elected in Area no 2.

The 1930 Local Election Results for Dublin are available here

Should anyone have any more information or suggested reading, on that 1930 Election, John Lumsden or the Irish Worker League , I would (and the sender) be very grateful.

Many thanks to the sender.

Jlumsden1930a1

Left Archive: Workers Republic, Journal of the League for a Workers Republic, no. 84, 1981 January 2, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, League for a Workers Republic.
4 comments

To download the above document please click here: WRep84

Firstly, many thanks to Rob Marsden at The Red Mole Project for the scan of this document and forwarding it to the Archive. Rob has been good enough to scan another document or two which are of relevance to the Irish Left. For anyone not familiar with The Red Mole Project it provides an huge archive of Red Mole and associated publications and material.

This document from 1981 from the League for a Workers Republic is first and foremost concentrated on the death of Bobby Sands on hunger strike. It joins this document from the LWR published a few years later. At that point the LWR was the Irish Section of the Fourth International (International Centre of Reconstruction) and a full overview of the organisation can be found here.

It argues that:

The British Government has cold-bloodedly murdered Bobby Sands. The British government intransigently refused to concede the just demands of Bobby Sands, for which he fasted to his death. It refused, despite the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Fermanagh-South Tyrone, who voted for Sands and his demands. It refused despite the tens of thousands of appeals from members of the labour and democratic movement world-wide.

It also blames Charles Haughey, ‘[who] refused to publicly demand Britain concede… and refused to meet the elected councillors of Fermanagh/South Tyrone… refused to meet the national H-Block Committee… ‘ and it calls for the ‘British Ambassador Out!’. It also argues that ‘now is the time for continuous stoppages, for strikes and demonstrations, for a general strike to force Thatcher to concede and to save the other hunger strikers’.

And it continues:

There can be no place in the Irish labour movement, in the movement founded by Connolly, for those who now stand by Britain’s murderous policy. Only those union leaders who support the actions of the workers against Britain have any place in the labour movement.

Other pieces include an LWR reply to Peoples’ Democracy, where it takes issue with an article in the paper of Peoples’ Democracy about the LWR entitled ‘An Infantile Disorder’.

There is also an article on ‘Electoral Strategy: Against Participation in Leinster House’ which restates the LWR’s fundamental antagonism to participation in either Westminster or Leinster House parliaments.

Left Archive: Workers’ Republic, No. 96, League for a Workers Republic, May 1983 July 25, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, League for a Workers Republic.
4 comments

To download the above document please click on the following link: WR 1983

This document issued in May 1983 was published by the League for a Workers Republic, at that point the Irish Section of the Fourth International. For an overview of the LWR see here.

The lead article details how shop-stewards organise for a General Strike but that…

…no prominent trade union leaders or political figure has supported Matt Merrigan’s call. instead the ICTU leadership has stated that they are encouraged by the anti-tax evasion measures in the Finance Bill. This Bill, now going through the Dáil implements the PAYE increases. But the ICTU want stoppages to cease and lobbying of individual T.D.’s to take place instead.

It also has a piece on the Nicky Kelly campaign which notes that:

British rule in Ireland has been challenged by the heroic workers and youth of the occupied 6 counties for over ten years, supported by their brothers and sisters in the South.

There are a range of articles engaging with topics such as Trades Councils, an account of a Polish strike committee organizer and founder of the Polish Socialist Workers’ Party at his trial by the Polish regime and reference to the anti-abortion amendment to the Constitution, which had yet to be determined.

There’s also an editorial that criticises Brendan Doris [of CPI M-L] and Joe Duffy, then the leadership of the Union of Students in Ireland, for not running a national campaign or press conferences against education cuts.

Careful study of the names of those involved will point to one or two familiar to the Left Archive.

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.

Irish Left Open History Project: The Internationalists/Communist Party of Ireland (Marxist-Leninist), Part One: 1965-1970 May 18, 2010

Posted by leftopenhistoryteam in Communist Party of Ireland (M-L), Irish Left Open History Project.
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cpi-m-l.jpg[Mike Hehir, leading national spokesman of the CPI M-L, 1970]

[Necessity for Change (1967) is available as a pdf here.]

[Red Patriot, issue one, August 1969, pdf file is available here.]

[Red Patriot, marking the launch of the CPI (M-L), July 1970, pdf here.].

[There’s also a stock of CPI (M-L) related materials here in the Left Archive]

When The Internationalists were first set up in Trinity College Dublin in November 1965, it was not as a fully-formed Marxist-Leninist party, but ‘as an exercise in better staff-student relations.'(1) Prominent among the initial group was Hardial Bains, a lecturer in bacteriology who was originally from India, but who had left for Canada in 1959 and had completed his post-graduate studies in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia. Bains was a former member of the Communist Party of India, having resigned in protest at the party’s endorsement of Khrushchev’s criticisms of Stalin. In March 1963 he founded a political group in Vancouver which was called The Internationalists (later the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), and while the November 1965 TCD group may not have been exactly an Irish version at this stage, the choice of name suggests Bains’ strong input from the start.

Also among those involved at the early stages of the group were two African students, David Akerele and Koye Majekodunmi, and staff members Kader Asmal (who was then head of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement), Professor David Webb (Professor of Botany), Dr. Owen Sheehy Skeffington and Dr. R. B. McDowell. Given such participants it is highly unlikely that The Irish Internationalists were at this stage in any way Marxist, or even socialist.

This loose discussion group held meetings with titles such as “Academic Freedom” and “The Function of a University”, and continued until October 1966, when the decision was taken, presumably by Bains and his supporters, to establish a more disciplined organisation which would focus on ‘which theory we are going to follow, which motivation we should have, which class we are going to favour’ (2).

It was at this stage that people like Asmal, Webb, Skeffington and McDowell began to drift away, leaving Bains as the undoubted central influence.

Sometime towards the end of 1966 the group renamed itself the Trinity Internationalists, and began to issue a periodical entitled Words and Comment. There were at least eleven issues produced between 1966 and 1968, and Trinity’s library has at least seven of them for those privileged enough to have access. (3)

In February-March 1967 the Internationalists organised a study programme entitled Necessity for Change, during which Hardial Bains made a speech which became the basis of the Necessity for Change! The Dialectic LIves! pamphlet.

Necessity for Change

‘People do not stop to think that museums, like history itself, are the creation of the ruling class.’

The main thrust of Necessity for Change appears to be towards students and academics, in that its criticisms are of intellectual production, and the intellectual industry, in the Western world. The control of ideas, of history, of ‘common sense’ by the ruling class needs to be challenged, first by a cadre who have un-taught themselves the prevailing ideas and have begun to see the world based on reality rather than the dominant, right-wing, intellectual discourse; then by the working class who will benefit from the intellectual and individual gains made by the cadre once these new ideas, and this new way of thinking, make their way into the working class through the actions of the cadre itself.

We will look at Necessity in more detail another day, but for now here are some key terms / concepts.

Anti-consciousness – the forced acceptance of a set of values and beliefs which are, in fact, not acquired by the act of finding out but by the act of consciously suppressing any findings which might contravene and contradict the so-called ‘ways of the civilised world’ (p.27). Almost all of us live and think within the realm of anti-consciousness. The job of the Internationalists is to expose this false reality – first to themselves, then to others – and to engage in ‘understanding’ which requires ‘an act of conscious participation by the individual, an act of finding out.’ In other words, we have to break down this false reality which has not only subsumed society’s thoughts but our own as well, and then begin the long, hard struggle of ‘finding out’ by observing the world as it is, not as the ruling class portray it.

Historical crib – “The particular prejudices of a society, transmitted through parents and social institutions, constitute the historical crib into which we are born. Like the womb of the mother, it provides us with everything we need. Our purpose and our goal are defined, that is, how to receive nourishment and how to be grateful for it. The historical crib gives us a perspective with which to look at the world and the people in it, including ourselves. We only see those things, which can be correlated with that perspective. This perspective is the active blindfold of anti-consciousness. Whenever we see through the blindfold we destroy that consciousness by using all kinds of cultural and historical crib-arguments. In other words, we destroy our understanding by camouflaging our experience. The covering up of experience precludes development. Thus we can never grow up and confront the ‘various classes of people who have usurped power by force’ as long as we are unconscious of that historical crib”(pp. 30-31). This historical crib, though, does not serve the needs of the individual, only the ruling class. Nonetheless, its pervasiveness is such that it envelops each individual in a ‘cocoon of loyalty’ from which it is extremely difficult to break. ‘One’s birth requires the destruction of that cocoon, but the self denies itself the will to so so’ (p.33).

Bains warns against people using The Internationalists as a new form of historical crib, ‘a new perspective through which they can rationalise their position in almost all circumstance’ (p.31). Internationalists, true Internationalists, have to be on their guard constantly to avoid this happening.

‘Various classes of people who has usurped power by force.’ – The ruling classes.

History-as-such – history as taught in schools and universities – essentially the history of the ruling class, from the perspective of the ruling class. The common,accepted conclusions of history. ‘It is always about kings and queens, rajahs and maharajahs, sheiks and inmans, warlords and landlords, and their hand-picked agents… People are compelled to learn that history by heart.’ (p.28) Crucially, this history teaches that ordinary people have no role to play in history, that they are powerless to make their own history.

Will-to-be – Despite the best attempts by the ruling class to propagate a hermetically-sealed compliant consciousness, there is a contradiction, a conflict, between the individual and society. There is something inside all of us which is ‘straining to be free in order to see the light… It is a reflection of class struggle going on in our society. This will-to-be is the spontaneous reflection amongst human beings of what they are struggling against in society.’ (p.33)

progressive-books.jpg

In April 1967 the group were given temporary use of a cellar in Trinity by the college authorities for the purpose of producing a newspaper for circulation. Four months later, in August, the Internationalists held a conference in London where they discussed their ideas with other elements of the British and Irish left. It lasted for two weeks, and among the groups invited were the Irish Communist Organisation (later the British and Irish Communist Organisation) who were also anti-revisionists. Talks of a merger between the two groups came to nothing, and in fact a serious animosity developed, one which played itself out on the pages of the two groups’ respective publications for the next ten years.

Towards the end of 1967, after the London conference, the Trinity Internationalists start to become more vocal and agitational. Around this time (1967/68) they produced a manifesto which called for reform of the internal structures of Trinity College. According to a highly-partisan article in the Irish Times (14 Jun 1968) entitled ‘A Cranky Set of Outsiders’, Michael Heney said that the Internationalists

… accuse it [TCD] of being a bourgeois-aristocratic educational institution, connected with British colonialism, geared to the reactionary training of students, and giving active support for the ruling and wealthy classes by the inculcation of bourgeois ideas and culture on the students.”

The influence of Necessity for Change! is clear – ‘reactionary training’, ‘inculcation of bourgeois ideas and culture’, ‘active support for the ruling and wealthy classes’ – all central ideas from the discussion group and pamphlet.

014-520-x-372.jpg

Heney goes on:

The group produces an enormous quantity of literature throughout the three academic terms of the year. Words and Comment is their main organ, a weekly publication, but there is also the more occasional Irish Student, and numerous other works, including pamphlets hurriedly produced on the occasion of some issue arising, and volumes containing extensive re-prints from the writings of Chairman Mao, and other Communist leaders.

The previous day (13 June) he wrote that the Internationalists numbered about 30, the majority of whom were foreign students, although at least six were Irish. These included John Dowling from Dublin, Arthur Allen from Drogheda, and Simon Stewart from Belfast.

In 1968 the leader of the Trinity Internationalists was Nick Miller, a final-year natural science student from England. In August of that year he was suspended from the college for failing to sign an undertaking to obey the rules of the college. Miller never returned to complete his studies, but according to Dublin University Climbing Club by 1971 he had left radical politics behind and was working for his father’s company.

According to Nusight, The Internationalists at this time ‘lived communally, shared all their earnings, rose at a certain time for pre-breakfast study sessions, and often worked an 18 hour day bill-posting around the city or stapling magazines.’ (4) It also said that

In the summer of 1968 they burst upon the public consciousness when they protested against the visit to Trinity of King Baudoin of Belgium. There were some minor scuffles with the gardai and right-wing students which attracted scare newspaper headlines and silly editorial condemnation of students in general by the Sunday Independent and the Evening Herald. In 1968 they opened up a bookshop in Townsend Street in Dublin. This attracted a small number of young people of working class background, most of whom were in school. They formed the People’s Rights Group and published an agitational broadsheet of the same name… The bookshop closed late last year (1969) when the lease ran out. Since then the Maoists have opened another bookshop in Exchequer Street. The People’s rights Committee, along with the Maoist students, provided the basis for the setting up last October (1969) of the Irish Communist movement (Marxist-Leninist), the major Maoist grouping at present.

internationalists.jpg

Attempts were made to set up bookshops in Cork and Limerick. The bookshop in Cork was attacked by a crowd one evening, while the bookshop in Limerick was the centre of a scare campaign by Steve Coughlan, the Labour Party’s Lord Mayor of the city. Both events warrant separate posts.

In August 1969 the Internationalists, under the name, Irish Revolutionary Youth, launched a monthly newspaper entitled Red Patriot.

In July 1970, The Internationalists merged with Irish Revolutionary Youth, and formed the Communist Party of Ireland (Marxist-Leninist).

1. Irish Times, ‘Who Are The Internationalists?’, 13 June 1968
2. Hardial Bains, On the Occasion of the 25th Anniversary of The Internationalists in Ireland (Dublin, 1990, pp.15-16)
3. Trinity Internationalists, Words, Berkeley Stacks – PER 75-457. Publication Date, Nos.4-11(1966-1968).
4. Nusight, ‘The Maoists’, May 1970.

Irish Left Open History Project: League for a Workers’ Vanguard / Workers’ League – 1969 to c.1978 January 6, 2010

Posted by leftopenhistoryteam in Irish Left Open History Project, League for a Workers Vanguard, Workers League.
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[Publications : Youth Bulletin, June 1971 (PDF, 11.5MB) ; Youth Bulletin, August 1972 (PDF, 5.6MB) ; Youth Bulletin, September 1972 (PDF, 5.4MB) ; Workers’ League, Newsheet, 3 July 1976 (PDF 2.6MB) ]

The League for a Workers’ Vanguard was formed in Belfast in 1969, later infiltrating the League for a Workers’ Republic and leading a breakaway group.

Dermot Whelan has the League for a Workers’ Vanguard as established in 1970 (see below). According to Paula Howard in Fortnight (22 February 1974), however, the group began publishing Vanguard: Journal of the League for a Workers’ Vanguard some time in 1969.

There is a copy of the first issue of Vanguard in the Linen Hall library, Belfast, and although it is undated, it references an Ulster Loyalist Association rally at which William Craig asked ‘what sort of absurdity is this peace line when the forces of law and order cannot go into certain places.’ Vanguard gives the date of the rally – 27 September – but not the year. However, these words were spoken by Craig at a rally outside City Hall, Belfast on Saturday, 27 September 1969.

The address for the editor of Vanguard was given as 2 Josephine Street, Belfast. In 1971, the address was given as 35 Howard Street, Belfast.

The League for a Workers’ Vanguard was pro-Healyite and apparently little more than a Socialist Labour League (SLL) front. The SLL had branches in Derry, Belfast and Dublin.

John Throne of Militant talks about meeting an SLL member in Derry in the late 1960s, while another source says that SLL activist George Craig was in Harland and Wolff in the 1960s. However, the League for a Workers’ Vanguard was the first real attempt by the SLL to organise an independent organisation in Ireland.

According to Dermot Whelan in his pamphlet, The Socialist Labour League and Irish Marxism,

In 1969 the League for a Workers’ Republic wrote to the International Committee [of the Fourth International], asking for a discussion, which resulted in Cliff Slaughter‘s visit to Ireland in October of that year. To this meeting were invited the SLL’s branches in Ireland and the League for a Workers’ Republic, who had by this time built up a strong youth movement in Dublin, as well as a basis of support around certain layers in the Irish Labour Party…

The most significant thing about Slaughter’s meeting was that, for the first time, the SLL proposed the setting up of an Irish section of the International Committee. The real reason for this change of position became clear only three years later. It was not motivated by a desire to build an independent, healthy movement of the Fourth International at all. What it wanted was a factional ally, an extra vote, who could be used against the French in the internal struggle in the Executive of the International Committee…

Although the SLL acceded to the LWR’s request for a period of further study before agreeing to join the International Committee, they immediately organised a secret faction in early 1970, composed of students, who split from the LWR, before discussion had concluded, in May 1970…

The immediate task of the Irish section was, for G. Healy, the building of a strong youth movement. This is, of course, a key to the building of the Bolshevik Party itself. Healy, however, saw it as a substitute for the party. This is why in early 1970 he issued an ultimatum to Jack Vance, George Craig and Freddie Campbell, the Belfast Protestant militants who led the section, that, unless a big youth movement was built quickly, he, Healy, would split with them…

Such activities manifested in the organisation of dances, film series, meetings and sport, drew in large forces around the Irish Young Socialists [the League for a Workers’ Vanguard youth section], first in the North in late 1970, and then, in the South, in early and middle 1971, from whom a nucleus of important cadres were won. This was done at the expense a) of the adult movement, whose paper ‘Vanguard’ was dropped, and where the production of a theoretical magazine was continually put off, because the Irish Young Socialists’ work absorbed all its time, and b) the Irish Young Socialist itself, where political education was confined to a few classes and a series of public lectures given by Healy in late 1970 and 1971.

Whelan also writes that the entire SLL leadership in Belfast left the organisation in early 1971, in disillusionment, and that the leader of the Irish Young Socialists at the time was a man called David Fry.

From 1970 to 1972, the Irish Young Socialists published Youth Bulletin, which in 1972 was incorporated into Workers’ Struggle.

In 1972, with the split in the International Committee of the Fourth International, the League for a Workers’ Vanguard changed its name to Workers’ League.

Towards the end of 1974 the Workers League began publication of Marxist Journal: Theoretical Paper of the Workers’ League. There are two copies of the journal in the National Library of Ireland: Vol.1 No.2, February 1975 (4B 1762), and Vol.1 No.4, October 1975 (1K 1376). Initially, Marxist Journal was intended as a bi-monthly publication, but in October it went monthly.

There were three contact addresses listed:

– Workers’ League, c/o Bulletin Publications, 55 Lower O’Connell Street, Dublin
– W. White, 47 Leenan Gardens, Derry
– F. Quigley, 3A Thornhill Court, Twinbrook, Belfast

The main address for correspondence was the Dublin address.

Marxist Journal argued that theory is not an abstraction, but a necessary tool in the fight against capitalism. The bourgeois is constantly bombarding the working classes with its ideological falsities – indeed, it is one of the ways it keeps a hold over the working classes – and as such it is not enough to do something to combat the bourgeois, to go on marches or strike or protest, one also has to think with clarity and precision as well. And this clarity and precision can be provided only by Marxist theory – correct Marxist theory – for if it is not correct the conclusions will be false, and bourgeois ideology will be left unopposed in its task of infecting and docilizing the working class.

This leaves Marxist revolutionaries – proper Marxist revolutionaries – with three fronts to fight:

1. Against the concrete forces of Capitalism
2. Against bourgeois ideology
3. Against false Marxism (revisionism)

False Marxism is proliferated not only by the Stalinist Communist parties, but also by Trotskyist groups who are not members of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). The following quote is from the February 1975 editorial of Marxist Journal:

Today, the struggle for Marxist theory can be fought not as an abstraction, but as the necessary ideological training, which alone will equip workers to fight back against capitalism, and to win.
This struggle for theory can only take place inside the context of the concrete struggle to win those forces who are being pushed forward by the crisis, and who are breaking from the policies of class collaboration and reformism.

Capitalism rules primarily by transmitting its bourgeois and reactionary ideology into the working class. Those who refuse to struggle for Marxist theory, in opposition to the prevailing bourgeois consciousness in society and in the working class, end up on the same side as imperialism, in opposition to the working class.

In Britain in the struggle to free the Shrewsbury building pickets jailed by the Tories under an obscure law, the Stalinists and the Revisionist IS [International Socialists] and IMG [International Marxist Group] the Wigan to London march supported by the Workers’ Revolutionary Party. They have betrayed their anti-Marxism in practice and have lined up with the reformist bureaucracy against the workers.”

In terms of one particular aspect of Irish Marxism – its republican strand – the editorial had this to say:

The revisionists who suggest that it is possible to reconcile Marxism and Republicanism play a most dangerous role. The lessons of the betrayals of the Officials and Provisionals prove that there can be no compromise between Republicanism and Marxism… The struggle for the materialist world outlook by this magazine, is the only way to ensure the victory of the working class. It is essential that this journal becomes the rallying centre for those forces who are now breaking from republicanism, and for those workers who are prepared to fight to prevent the working class being made into slaves.”

The October 1975 edition of Marxist Journal saw the Workers’ League continue to engage with theory as a method of defeating capitalism and countering false consciousness. In a catechism of Marxist thought entitled Science and Materialism Part 1: Fundamentals of Materialism, the group asked ‘Is Marxism compatible with the results of modern nuclear physics?’ Having asked the question, the group provided the following answer:

Modern nuclear theories are a rich confirmation of Marxism, not simply because atoms and particles exist and can be irrefutably proved to exist, but because Marxism insisted that these fundamental building blocks of matter, could not be hard little brilliant balls, but must interact and be transformed into the other in a constant process of change. Nuclear physics has shown that these particles in each family can be represented as different states of the same particle and that the difference in these particles is relative. The particles in these difference familiars interact between themselves according to laws which physics is beginning to unravel. The exact form these laws take is not predetermined by a Marxist scheme but these laws enrich our materialist conception of the world and thereby Marxism and revolutionary science.”

The October 1975 edition also carried a statement by the Central Committee of the Workers League, entitled Withdraw the Troops! Form Workers’ Defence Guards! Build the Revolutionary Party in Ireland and Britain. It argued that British imperialism, the British army, and Loyalist organisations, were working in tandem to create a civil war in Ulster.

‘Through a series of sectarian assassinations and provocations it intends to inflame the situation to a point where pogroms and armed attacks are carried out on Catholic working class areas culminating eventually in a Loyalist regime which will impose fascist-type rule on all sections of the working class.”

The statement goes on to place Ulster, and the events in Ulster, within the context of events in British capitalism, ‘as it reels under the twin blows of the world economic crisis and the movement of the working class.’

The statement said that the events in Ulster were being used by British capitalism to smash the power of the British working class. This is a crucial point in the Workers’ League’s approach to Ireland, which saw Ireland, more times than not, in terms of its effect on Britain. In June 1974 the Central Committee issued a statement which summed up this analysis.

“History has shown that when the British ruling class has been pushed back in Ireland and Britain it has turned to the Protestant bourgeoisie and has prepared to use its ideology and its hold on the working class and backward workers as a battering ram to break all opposition in both countries. Craig, Paisley and West would not stop in the North nor with an assault on Catholic workers alone. Their purpose is to smash the entire working class in both Ireland and Britain. The Convention is a total farce and is only a curtain for a projected loyalist take-over.”

The Central Committee rejected Republicanism and Loyalism, adding that:

‘the only ally of the Catholic worker is the Protestant worker. Similarly, the only ally of the Irish worker is the British worker. In the North, the South and in Britain the strength of the working class and its refusal to accept the effects of the crisis is the dominant factor. What the bourgeoisie fear above all else is the prospect of this great strength being welded together and united around a socialist programme. As they work desperately to maintain the divisions,they are helped by all the reformist, republican, Stalinist and revisionist leaderships in the working class. Only the Workers’ League and the Workers’ Revolutionary Party can offer a programme which cuts through religious and national divisions and unite workers along class lines.”

Having rejected Republicanism as bourgeois and revisionist, the Central Committee then went on to argue the following:

“In the struggle for unity between all workers in Ireland, particularly between workers in the North and the South, it is essential that a firm stand be taken against partition. The border was introduced to divide the working class, and to head off developments towards socialist revolution that were taking place in 1918-1921. In closing ranks to defend their rights Irish workers must do away with the border. The struggle to defend living standards and democratic rights can only be achieved by throwing off the yoke of imperialism and setting up an independent workers and small farmers government based on nationalised industry and a planned economy… fight fascism and repression. Build a workers’ militia now, based on class organisations like trade unions and tenant associations, to protect housing estates, factories and workers going to and from work. [We demand] the immediate withdrawal of the British army and the disbandment of the R.U.C., “C” Specials and U.D.R. Proscribe all Loyalist and fascist factions within the unions.”

Finally, having gained independence, smashed the border and Loyalism, the R.U.C. and the British army in Ulster, and by having done so, somehow rejected Republicanism, Ireland’s future would be secured by the formation of a workers and small farmers government as part of a United Socialist States of Europe.

According to Wikipedia, the Workers’ League was ‘moribund’ by 1978.

Irish Left Open History Project: The Socialist Party of Ireland 1971 – 1982 November 27, 2009

Posted by leftopenhistoryteam in Irish Left Open History Project, Socialist Party of Ireland (1971-1982).
78 comments

SPI73REPORT

As a means of opening the discussion on the SPI the accompanying document was donated by Mark P (for which many thanks and many thanks also to the SP for allowing us access to some documents from their archive) and seems entirely suitable for the Open History Project. It provides a report by the Socialist Party of Ireland (not related to the contemporary Socialist Party) on their 1973 National Congress.

The SPI was a split from Official Sinn Féin which took place in 1971 with a small cadre believing that the larger group was overly exercised by the national question and insufficiently Marxist-Leninist. The SPI never achieved national prominence, but in adopting some positions not dissimilar to BICO (and working with BICO) it foreshadowed developments in the WP later in the day (and some of its members returned to OSF and later the WP). But the party ultimately merged in 1982 with some from BICO and Jim Kemmy’s Limerick group as the Democratic Socialist Party.

The Lost Revolution gives an overview of the genesis of the party as follows:

Internal unease at the perceived primacy of nationalist politics over social agitation resulted in several Dublin activists resigning from Sinn Féin in the aftermath of the 1971 Ard Fheis. Among those who left to set up the Socialist Party of Ireland (SPI) were former leading figures in the Dublin Housing Action Committee. most were also OIRA members who had already left following disputes over the movement’s political direction that surrounded the 1970 IRA General Army Convention. In order to help fund the new party, SPI supporters robbed £1,000 from a post office in Ballymun. Despite some allegations of intimidation, relations between SPI members and their former comrades remained relatively good, with several rejoining Sinn Féin within a few months. The new group would eventually adopt a view on the ‘national question’ strongly influenced by the British and Irish Communist Organisation’s ‘two-nations’ theory. It was openly pro-Soviet and unashamedly adopted Communist iconography. But outside of Ballymun, where it campaigned consistently on local issues, the SPI failed to make a discernable impact and never numbered much more than a few dozen activists.

The Lost Revolution doesn’t expand on the dispute at the Army Convention and that is a matter which would be worth exploring further.

Wikipedia gives a broader outline:

The Socialist Party of Ireland (SPI) (Cumann Sóisialachais na Éireann in Irish) was a minor left-wing political party which existed in Ireland from 1971 to 1980.
The SPI was set up by ex-members of “official” Sinn Féin. It was formed on 13 December 1971 in Dublin and published its political manifesto on 19 January 1972. The SPI saw itself as a hard-line Marxist-Leninist alternative to the Communist Party of Ireland, which it criticised for its “blurred philosophy, loose structure, of discipline and unity”. The SPI opposed the friendly stance taken by the CPI towards official Sinn Féin, which it saw as a “mixture of petit-bourgeois radicals, nationalists and ultra leftists”. The SPI supported the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Moscow Declaration of 1969.
It staged its first national congress in Dublin on 1–2 December 1973. The congress elected a seven member central committee comprising of Fergus Brogan, Desmond Hughes, Deirdre Uí Bhrógáin, Éamonn Ó Fearghail, Seamus Ó Reachtagáin, Fergus Quinlan, and Séamas Ó Brógáin.
In the late 1970s, the party started discussions with several other groups with a similar policy on the National Question, including the British and Irish Communist Organisation (B&ICO) and the Limerick Socialists headed by Jim Kemmy. Eventually the three groups merged forming the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) with one elected representative in the Dáil (Parliament). The DSP eventually merged with the Irish Labour Party which became a junior partner in a coalition government.
During its life, the SPI was very active in campaigning for divorce (Divorce Action Group), contraception (Contraception Action Campaign), abortion (Right to Choose) and, in particular, opposition to nationalism and the campaign of the Provisional IRA (Socialists Against Nationalism). It supported the Two States Theory which accepted the right of the Unionist population of Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom until such time as a majority of the population choose otherwise by democratic means.
The party’s head office was at 23 Parliament Street, Dublin 2. In 1976, it renamed itself the “Socialist Party”.
Several SPI members ran as independents in Irish elections, the most successful being Eamonn O’Brien[1] from Ballymun, whose performance in achieving over six percent of the vote in the Dublin County North constituency in the 1977 General Election[2], encouraged Official Sinn Féin on the parliamentary road. He also joined the Workers Party and later the Labour Party and represented ballymun as a city councilor.
The party’s publications, Vanguard and Advance, set a new standard for left-wing publications, using modern layout and photographs in a high quality reproduction format.
On 1 December 1982, the Socialist Party dissolved itself into the Democratic Socialist Party.

That concentration on an activist approach to issues such as divorce and contraception is also of great interest for it foreshadowed a shift towards such issues by the left more generally during the 1980s. Clearly whoever wrote that had access to the Report of the 1st National Congress.

The Report itself neatly lays out the SPI line on a matter of topics, particularly in the opening speech from the Congress. Of considerable concern was the EEC, joined that year, the FG/Labour coalition, ‘preparations’ for a move away from neutrality, national wage agreements. This is couched in a language of direct confrontation with the state and the ‘treachery’ of the trade union movement.

On the North the party was clear that only by ‘bringing to the fore […] class issues’ could the situation be resolved and that it was certain ‘that campaigns of bombing and counter-bombing, murder and assassinations, produce only negative results which serve the interests of imperialism’.

On international relations the party welcomed ‘the constructive foreign policy of the Soviet Union [which] has made the greatest contribution to the establishment of an enduring peace based on mutual respect for sovereignty of states and non-interference by states in each other’s internal affairs. The Soviet/Federal Republic of Germany treaty has ended the cold war. The Soviet-American agreements make peaceful co-existence between the two great powers into a principle of state law’. It also lamented the overthrow of Allende in Chile.

One notable feature is the emphasis on party discipline. While this concept of ‘discipline’ isn’t enunciated entirely in full but is reiterated as a defining aspect of the party it is clear that it is bound up with an internal party structure which utilises democratic centralism and is posited as a distinction between them and Sinn Féin and indeed their perceived greatest rival on the left, for the Central Committee Report makes note of the following:

We must refer to the existence of the organisation called the ‘Communist Party of Ireland’, because it is as a direct consequence of its failure that two parties exist claiming revolutionary leadership of the Irish working class.

It continues:

The most obvious fault of the CPI – and the one which ensures that it will never gain mass support – is its capitulation, ideologically and organisationally, to Sinn Féin. The ‘official’ Sinn Féin organisation, with which the CPI is in permanent alliance is an unstable mixture of petty-bourgeois radicals, nationalists, and ultraleftists…

We must make it clear that our difference with the CPI is not just on their attitude to the national question. The truth is that the CPI lacks not just one but many – one might almost say all – of the characteristics of a communist party: and the logical and inevitable result of its vague philosophy, its loose structure and its lack of discipline and unity is its imminent collapse into opposing factions, which points to the absolute necessity for a new organisation.

This sense of distinctiveness permeates the document. But it’s also fair to point to the admission that:

The membership of our party is small – we are without doubt the smallest workers’ party in the world’

And yet, a most intriguing one at that whose influence on certain aspects of Irish political life may have been greater than their numbers. It’s hard at this remove to understand the trajectory of their development from more orthodox than the CPI to the DSP. More information gratefully accepted.

Addendum by WBS: I knew quite a few people in the WP who had been through the SPI, indeed the first time I heard about the SPI was probably in 84 in the party club having a pint at a table up against the street side surrounded by old-timers who looking back were probably barely out of their twenties but at the time seemed like wisdom incarnate. There was no question that even though they’d left and the party had disbanded at that stage they still had good memories of it, almost as if it were a rite of passage. Worth drawing attention to the annotations in the text of the document above by a later, rather more critical reader.

Irish Left Open History Project: League for a Workers’ Republic, 1968 – November 12, 2009

Posted by leftopenhistoryteam in Irish Left Open History Project, League for a Workers Republic.
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lwr (407 x 480)

[League for a Workers’ Republic, After the Election 1977, available here. (1.92MB)]

According to D.R. O’Connor Lysaght in his Early History of Irish Trotskyism, the League for a Workers Republic was formed in March 1968. Those involved in its foundation included Sean Matgamna, Peter Graham, Paddy Healy, and Liam Daltun. It arose out of a split within the Irish Workers’ Group. The LWR soon became a strong force within the Dublin Young Socialists. Early members of the LWR included Carol Coulter, Basil Miller, and Dermot Whelan.

In early 1970 a group within the LWR left the organisation. This group ‘supported the International Committee of the Fourth International [ICFI] [and] demanded immediate affiliation of the LWR to the ICFI. This was unacceptable to a majority of LWR members, despite overall political agreement with the IC, because of a remaining lack of clarity on certain questions, and unease over various aspects of the IC’s politics, notably the positions of the British Socialist Labour League on Ireland’ (Workers Republic, April 1974). Dermot Whelan was among those who left in 1970. This group became known as the League for a Workers’ Vanguard, later simply Workers’ League. It was linked with the Socialist Labour League.

In the summer of that year (1970) Peter Graham left the LWR, and joined the International Marxist Group which was the British section of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. Peter was shot dead in October 1971. His body was found in a flat near the corner of St. Stephen’s Green and Harcourt Street. Peter had been involved at an unspecified level with the Saor Éire Action Group, and his murder, for which no-one was ever prosecuted, was rumoured to have been linked to a Saor Éire internal dispute. (Saor Éire were principally bank robbers, and had killed a garda, Richard Fallon, in 1970 during a bank raid.)

In 1970 the Young Socialists put forward a strategy for a new socialist labour party, one that would unite revolutionary socialists on both sides of the border. The resulting organisation was the Socialist Labour Alliance (SLA), which attracted support from various individuals and groups. According to John Goodwillie, the SLA was ‘largely comprised of intellectuals, who were more interested in debating socialism than in practical activities. Its ideological disputations increasingly immobilised it as an organisation, leading to an outflow of members… The situation was further confused by the Young Socialists themselves being immobilised by a struggle between the LWR and the “Left Opposition”, later to become the Revolutionary Marxist Group. Although less pervaded by arid dogmatism, they rejected the struggles of the working class as the primary area of interest and argued instead for involvement in the student movement, in the women’s liberation movement, in the fringes of the Republican movement.’

In 1972 there was a split within the ICFI, and the breakaway group, which was free of SLL influence, became known as the Organising Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International (OCRFI). The LWR affiliated to this breakaway group. Dermot Whelan rejoined the LWR in 1974, and wrote a pamphlet which outlined his analysis of the SLL (available here, 2MB).

Around Sept/Oct 1972 Brian Trench wrote an article for the SWM’s Internal Bulletin, (no.4), which gave an overview of the various left groupings in Ireland. He inferred that the LWR had less than twenty members. He found the LWR to be ‘seriously orientated towards the working-class movement’, although the praise came with the caveat that the group was ‘chronically sectarian and arrogant.’

In 1974, the LWR launched a theoretical magazine, Revolutionary International, which was sold outside the GPO on Saturday afternoons. In June of that year, the LWR called on people to vote Labour, with ‘no transfers to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, or Aontacht Éireann! Smash the coalition!” The address of the editor was given as 13 Lwr Camden Street, Dublin 2. Contributors included Carol Coulter, Dermot Whelan, and Brian Miller. The editorial said that in the previous two years, the group had become members of The Organising Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International, and had undertaken ‘an investigation and criticism of the Two Nations Theory, a version of which [the group] held, and corrected our position.’

(The LWR had previously held that the northern Protestant population constituted a ‘nationality´rather than a ´nation´.)

The editorial also said that the Young Socialists, ‘which… took up a lot of attention and resources, now have a proper national committee and are bringing out their own paper.’

In June 1974 a newspaper called Young Socialist began publication. Its office address, 13 Lower Camden Street, was the same as that for Revolutionary International, and was published concurrently. It contained an article from the Drogheda Young Socialists, as well as a copy of the Young Socialist Manifesto (click here).

The paper also mentioned that the group had ‘two representatives on the student bodies in Trinity College Dublin and one in U.C.D.’ ‘While we recognise that only under a Socialist workers government will education become a right and not a privilege’ it said, ‘we must fight to defend the gains already made and must carry the fight to the trade unions and workers’ bodies to force the government to restructure the education machine. It is the working classes who are suffering most under the present, corrupt system, and it is only with their support that we can force the government to act.’

To return to Revolutionary International, June 1974. The group was focused on national and international matters – including the national wage agreements, the North, militant republicanism, the crisis in international capitalism and its expression in Ireland, Britain and Europe, and the recent coup in Chile. The events demanded answers, and, nailing its ideological orientation to the mast, the editorial said that ‘only the Trotskyist movement, the living continuation of Marxism, can give those answers.’ A statement of intent was also given. It said:

‘In this magazine we will fight for scientific socialism (Marxism) among the advanced sections of the Irish working Class, and against bourgeois ideology in all its forms, whether religious or the pro-imperialist liberalism of a small section of the Irish bourgeoisie and its intelligentsia, represented by the likes of Conor Cruise O’Brien. We will take up and expose all revisions of Marxism which try to dress up the ideas, outlook and method of the bourgeoisie in left-wing and even Marxist phrases in order to make it palatable to the working class. We will fight for internationalism, against the isolationism born of history and fostered by the bourgeoisie, from which the Irish working class has suffered. This will include drawing the lessons of the struggles of the working class in other countries, and fighting for real solidarity and a revolutionary internationalist outlook among Irish workers, and against the nationalist prejudices fostered by the bourgeoisie and their agents. In the course of this we will bring reports and analysis of the need and the fight to rebuild the Fourth International, and will do all in our power to initiate and pursue discussions with all militants for a revolutionary international. This has particular meaning in the context of the fight of our international tendency for an open conference of all militants interested in the building of a revolutionary international, opposed to Stalinism, and pledged to defend the gains of the Russian Revolution.’

The June ’74 edition had an article on the Two Nations theory, written by Carol Coulter, which set out to undermine BICO’s claim to be communist. Drawing heavily on the writings of the BICO-led Workers’ Association for the Democratic Settlement of the National Conflict in Ireland (W.A.) ‘which despite its title, is composed mainly of students’, Coulter stated that the WA’s policy is summed up thus:

‘Full recognition of the Ulster Protestant nation’s right to remain in the U.K. state; full recognition of the democratic rights of the Catholic minority in the North, and the Protestant minority in the South.’

BICO, she adds, ‘is less blatant about their positions’, but she quotes from a BICO pamphlet, The Two Irish Nations:

‘The one nation dogma creates nationalist division in the working class, since it attempts to impose on the Protestant workers a nationality which they reject. The two-nation theory is the only basis for unity across national lines.” (p.39)

BICO drew heavily from Stalin’s definition of a nation. Essentially, Stalin’s analysis was that: ‘a nation is a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture…. It is only when all these characteristics are present that we have a nation.’ [for more on this see here.] BICO took as their basis the uneven industrial development of the island in the nineteenth century, with industry taking off predominantly in the North. Coupled with a shared language and psychological make-up, the Protestant people of the North therefore constituted a nation. Coulter countered with reference to Lenin on nations, particularly his Critical Remarks on the National Question, where he says: ‘if we want to grasp the meaning of self-determination of nations, not by juggling legal definitions… but by examining the historico-economic conditions of the national movements, we must inevitably reach the conclusion that the self-determination of nations means the political separation of these nations from alien national bodies, and the formation of independent national states.’

Coulter concludes:

‘If, for example, the Protestants wanted independence from British imperialism, which undoubtedly oppresses them, and also their own state, if a national democratic movement existed on this basis, pledged to independence and a genuinely democratic state, if they were opposed to existing oppression, then of course no Marxist could or would argue with their right to self-determination. But this is not the concrete reality of the case. Protestant nationalism, if such it can be called, is not primarily concerned with democracy, quite the opposite, it is concerned with privilege, with the maintenance of inequalities. It is not concerned with fighting existing oppression, but with state institutionalisation of oppression. It is not concerned with independence from imperialism, but with participation in the spoils of imperialism. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the nationalism in which Marxists see a progressive content, a “general democratic content”. The relationship of this kind of “nationalism”

The LWR also opposed the national wage agreements. In an article written by Dermot Whelan, it called the Employer-Labour Conference:

‘a completely corporatist body, and in structure and aim … no different from the syndicate organisations of fascist countries such as Spain and Portugal. Through this body and the National Agreements it has come out with, the ruling class since late 1970 have shackled the entire workers’ movement to the needs of Irish capitalism, have begun to pauperise and weaken the resistance of the workers and effectively turned the unions into policemen of the state and employers.’

In May 1975, Workers Republic carried an article on recent student elections in TCD. It mentions two of the candidates, Carol Coulter and Anne Connolly.

In April 1976, Workers’ Republic changed format, and became bi-monthly. The articles were longer, and more in-depth. Publication of Revolutionary Struggle was suspended, “as Workers’ Republic will fulfil its function.” Contributors to this theoretical/discussion publication included Willie Ryan, Carol Coulter, Harry Brent, Anne Williamson, Mary Quigley, Frank O’Reilly, George White, Seamus O’Brien, Frank Smith, Mary Johnson, Chris Connor, Terry Brennan, John O’Hara, Margaret Grey, and Frank Smith.

The LWR also participated in the Socialist Labour Party, and although it never formally dissolved, by the late-1980s the group had ceased to have any form of a noticeable presence.

Irish Left History Project: Irish Workers Group (1976) / Class Struggle October 29, 2009

Posted by leftopenhistoryteam in Irish Left Open History Project, Irish Workers Group 1976.
1 comment so far

Class Struggle, November 1977, here (5MB)

Class Struggle, Apr-Aug 1982, here (8MB)

Class Struggle, Dec 87/Jan 88, here (7.5MB)

[Not to be confused with the 1960s Irish Workers Group.]

The Irish Workers Group (IWG) was formed sometime around the end of 1975 following a series of expulsions that year from the Socialist Workers Movement (SWM). In 1977 the IWG produced Class Struggle, a theoretical journal of which twenty issues were produced over the next ten years.

In the first issue of Class Struggle (June 1977), the IWG said that there were two issues which led its current members to break from the SWM

1. The North
2. Women

It claimed that the SWM ‘held positions which effectively reduced the national question to a subordinate role in the programme and strategy for the Irish working class socialist revolution [and reduced] the emancipation of women from both exploitation and oppression to a side issue better left to pressure groups and liberals.’ (p.5)

The group ‘argued for the centrality of the national question and for systematic propaganda, agitation and intervention, in particular the building of united fronts within the anti-unionist population. In this context we saw and still see the importance of raising particular demands on the SDLP as a means of drawing larger sections of anti-unionist workers into the struggle and breaking the hold of the SDLP.’ (p.5)

With regard to women, ‘the left opposition not only won the membership of the SWM to see the strategic necessity of the demands for contraception and abortion on demand but fought for them to be taken up within the Irish working class – as an aspect of this we called for the building of a mass working class women’s movement as a strategic imperative for the group and for the class.’ (p.5)

The struggle against British rule in the North was a struggle against imperialism, and as such deserving of support from socialist groups. This did not mean that the IWG supported the Provisional IRA as such, and certainly not Provisional Sinn Féin – however, while it was able to criticize ‘the petty-bourgeois nature of the Provos’ and their ‘mealy-mouthed catholic nationalist rhetoric’, at the same time, and in the same opinion piece, it voiced support for the Provisional IRA hunger strikers in Portlaoise Jail who were ‘anti-imperialist political prisoners, members of an organisation which has never baulked at the use of violence in furthering the struggle.’ (p.2) It saw the volunteers as anti-imperialist fighters, while the organisation to which those fighters swore allegiance was petty-bourgeois.

The IWG believed in an anti-imperialist united front, and laid out what it considered as the revolutionary perspective inherent to any such front:

1. Drawing the anti-unionist working class as a class to the forefront of the struggle in the North
2. The development of an anti-unionist armed front of workers, socialists and republicans
3. Mobilization for a general strike
4. The emergence of soviets
5. The demand for a workers’ republic

According to the IWG the united front was a tactic, ‘adopted by revolutionary Marxists when

(i) objectively the most pressing needs of the masses can only be defended by united mass action, and

(ii) subjectively, the masses remain under the leadership, programmes, organisation and methods of forces which are not revolutionary forces and are obstacles to both the defense of immediate interests and to the long-term needs and development of the struggle for a workers’ republic.’

Furthermore, the united front was ‘a method by which both aims – uniting the masses on the most important issues facing them, and exposing the false solutions of non-Marxists – can be achieved under the leadership of revolutionary Marxists and their programme.’

Under such an analysis, it was imperative for revolutionary Marxists to oppose those false Marxists who were impediments to revolution. A read through the pages of Class Struggle gives one the impression that the entire Irish left – with the notable exception of the IWG and Provisional IRA rank-and-file members – were false Marxists or reformists, and as such had to be challenged lest they lead the masses astray.

It had small branches in Derry, Galway and Dublin, and members included Andy Johnston, Eddie McWilliams, Jim Larragy, Siobhán Molloy, Brian Parsons and Matt Doherty. In 1977 it alligned itself to the Socialist Labour Party, but the relationship did not last long.

Class Struggle continued to be published until the 1990s.

In 1987 the IWG re-launched Class Struggle as ‘a fighting paper’, with an expanded analysis of its members’ expulsions from the SWM, The article is reproduced in full below.

The main points of the 1987 expulsion article were:

1. The SWM believed that the Soviet Union was State Capitalist, not a degenerated Workers’ State
2. There was a failure within the SWM to link economic class struggle with political class struggle
3. The SWM failed to oppose the sending in of troops in 1969.
4. The SWM failed to recognize the importance of the national question for the working class as a whole.
5. It failed to link the women’s movement to the issue of class struggle, preferring to leave women’s rights to cross-class organisations
6. The 1974 revolution in Portugal showed up the SWM’s lack of commitment to Lenin and Trotsky’s internationalist method.

An alternative view of the expulsions, one from inside the SWM, is available via the John Goodwillie deposit in the Irish Labour History Society Museum, Beggars Bush, Dublin, and the document is also reproduced below in full as a counter to the IWG analysis (1977 and 1987).

Along with Class Struggle, the IWG also published, or had a hand in publishing the following:
Workers Power/Irish Workers Group, The Degenerated Revolution: The origins and nature of the Stalinist states (Dublin, 1982)
Andy Johnston, James Larragy, Edward McWilliams, Connolly: a Marxist analysis (Dublin, 1990)

For many years the address of the Irish Workers Group was: 12 Langrishe Place, Dublin 1.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IRISH WORKERS GROUP: WHERE WE COME FROM (From Class Struggle, No.1, Oct 1987, p.2)

(more…)

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