Irish history

Rendezvous in Northern Ireland?

Martin McGuinness shaking the Queen's hand offended socialists because of our contempt for the institution of monarchy but his motive at least was progressive, and also republican in the sense defined by the founder of modern Irish republicanism Wolfe Tone — “to replace the name Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter with the common name Irishman”.

In a hugely symbolic moment on 27 June, during a royal visit to Northern Ireland to mark her jubilee, the former commander of the IRA shook hands with the Queen.

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An Irish Trotskyist Programme for Irish Unity (1948)

This leaflet was produced by the Irish Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Socialist Party in 1948. A section of the Cannon-Pablo-Mandel Fourth International, the RSP had adopted the politics of the Workers Party USA, the Shachtman organisation. The “coalition” referred to is the Dublin government formed after the the February 1948 election in the 26 Counties by Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Clann na Poblachta, Clann na Talmhan and the National Labour Party. It replaced De Valera's Fianna Fail, which had been in office since 1932.


Fine Gael takes hostages

This leaflet was produced by the Irish Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Socialist Party in 1948. A section of the Cannon-Pablo-Mandel Fourth International, the RSP had adopted the politics of the Workers Party USA, the Shachtman organisation.

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Books on war and revolution

War and revolution has been a theme of 2014. Workers’ Liberty comrades were asked to recommend some books on that theme, all readily available, and ideal for reading over the holiday period.

The German Revolution 1918-23 by Pierre Broué

This book is the most in depth account of a pivotal period of the twentieth century I’ve ever read. It has huge lessons for us today on the united front, transitional demands and the concept of a workers government.

Paul Hampton

Regeneration by Pat Barker

War and revolution has been a theme of 2014. Workers’ Liberty comrades recommend some books on that theme, all readily available, and ideal for reading over the holiday period.

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Introduction: freeing Marxism from pseudo-Marxist legacy

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Sean Matgamna

“Since my early days I have got, through Marx and Engels, the greatest sympathy and esteem for the heroic struggle of the Irish for their independence” — Leon Trotsky, letter to Nora Connolly, 6 June 1936

In 1940, after the American Trotskyists split, the Shachtman group issued a ringing declaration in support of the idea of a “Third Camp” — the camp of the politically independent revolutionary working class and of genuine national liberation movements against imperialism.

“What does the Third Camp mean?”, it asked, and it replied:

Much of socialist discourse on Ireland shows at its worst the process of Marxism being atrophied into a set of shibboleths, dead forms of words filled with alien content.

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1948: Irish Trotskyists call for a united Ireland with autonomy for the Protestant northeast

The leaflet below was produced by the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Ireland in 1948. The RSP was a Trotskyist group, the Irish section of the official Fourth International at the time, formed by a merger of previous small groups in early 1944, and having about 20 members.

The RSP briefly published a weekly newspaper, the Workers’ Republic, but it ran out of money after six issues, and circulated literature from the British and US Trotskyists.

In the arguments among Trotskyists in the 1940s over Stalinism, they sided with Max Shachtman and the Workers’ Party of the USA.

A leaflet produced by the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Irish section of the official Fourth International, in 1948.

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The Irish Trotskyists on trade union unity in the 1940's

Below is a leaflet produced by the Revolutionary Socialist Party, which was then the (small) Irish section of the Fourth International, some time soon after the splitting of the Irish trade union movement (Irish TUC) in 1945 by Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union leader William O’Brien and his allies.

A leaflet produced by the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Irish section of the Fourth International, some time soon after the splitting of the Irish trade union movement (Irish TUC) in 1945 by Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union leader William O’Brien and his allies.

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A Marxist surveys mid-50's Ireland: Matt Merrigan in Labor Action, 1955-57

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Matt Merrigan

Matt Merrigan was a member of the small Irish Trotskyist group in the 1940s, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, and a socialist all his life. He eventually became president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and died in 2000.

In the mid-50s, for a while, he wrote reports on Ireland for Labor Action, the paper of the Independent Socialist League of Max Shachtman, Hal Draper, and others in the USA.

Matt Merrigan was a member of the small Irish Trotskyist group in the 1940s, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, and a socialist all his life. He eventually became president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and died in 2000. In the mid-50s, for a while, he wrote reports on Ireland for Labor Action, the paper of the Independent Socialist League of Max Shachtman, Hal Draper, and others in the USA.

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The first discussion in Socialist Review, 1957

“It would seem that you have altered your programme because some pseudo-socialists in Ireland are ‘unclear’ on the issue. This seems to me to be a perilously near approach to the attitude of the legendary Yankee politician who assured his hearers that ‘Them’s my sentiments, and if you don’t like them they can be scrapped’.” – P Lavin, Socialist Review, 1 March 1959

Socialist Review was the journal of the Socialist Review group, the forerunner of the International Socialists in the 1960s and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) since 1977.

In the first six years of its existence, from 1950, Socialist Review never said a word about Ireland.

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The second discussion on Ireland, 1958

In the first, October 1958, issue of the now fortnightly Socialist Review, a new round of discussion is launched:

“From Northern Ireland, George Adair writes on the need for a United Irish Republic.” This is an attempt to defend Socialist Review’s point of view, and George Adair is most likely a pen name.

A nervous introduction by the editor (Michael Kidron) explains what SR think they are doing:

In the first, October 1958, issue of the now fortnightly Socialist Review, a new round of discussion on Ireland is launched.

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