The "Manifesto" of the Irish Workers' Group (1967)

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

This programmatic "preamble" was adopted by the Irish Workers' Group in September 1967. (The IWG itself subsequently fragmented).

In late 1968, a bit of this document was read out to the Northernn Ireland Parliament by Northern Ireland Home Affairs Minister, William Craig, to show that "communists" were "behind" the militant NI civil rights movement, and the 'riots' in Derry in October 1968. He cited the statement of aims: "...a revolutionary socialist organisation which aims to mobilise the Irish section of the international working class to overthrow the existing irish bourgeois states, destroy all remaining Imperialist organs of political and economic control, and establish an All-Ireland Socialist Worker's' Republic."

This "Preamble" is in essence one of the founding political documents of the tendency which is now the AWL.


A) The name of the organisation is the Irish Workers' Group. It is a revolutionary socialist organisation which aims to mobilise the Irish section of the international working class to overthrow the existing Irish bourgeois states, destroy all remaining imperialist organs of political and economic control, and establish an all-Ireland Socialist Workers' Republic.

B) WORLD CAPITALISM

World capitalism long ago — from at least the beginning of this century of imperialism — became a barrier holding back the potentialities of human culture. The objective pre-requisites of world socialism have long been attained, and are in fact over-ripe. The compounded contradictions of the system have led to a succession of world wars, catastrophic slumps and periodic recessions, colonial massacres, and fascist barbarism.

It cannot organise the available resources of humanity rationally: even in its relatively expansive periods it has meant irrationality and waste, coupled with absolute poverty and starvation for the majority of mankind. In all its phases it is a regime of grinding — and increasing — exploitation of the workers and colonial and neo-colonial peoples. The basic contradiction between the gigantic and growing social productive resources now in existence and their subordination to the archaic capitalist system, bound by private ownership and the profit mainspring, continues to fester, threatening to replace the present time-marking economic tempo with slump, the present vast wastage on arms production with the use of those arms, the present local and colonial wars with new world wars.

The imperialist distortion of world economy, control of the world market, continues to retard the less developed areas of the world, making serious industrialisation and development difficult to the point of impossibility. Reactionary capitalism now stands astride the path of development of mankind. And today the gangrenous stage of a system overripe for replacement threatens humanity not only with a continuation of the barbarity of our epoch but even with nuclear annihilation. Human civilisation — indeed human life — can only be assured by the proletariat, the only class capable of replacing capitalism. with a higher system, free from the present deadly contradictions.

The very irrationality of capitalism, which is concretely manifested in crises, wars and wage and other struggles imposed on the workers, rouses and prepares the working class for this task. It creates the conditions for its education into socialist awareness and for the replacement by a Marxist proletarian consciousness of that bourgeois ideology which is essential to the continuation of the capitalist system. The proletariat throughout the world will end exploitation and create socialist order out of capitalist chaos. It will destroy the rule of capital, make war impossible and abolish state frontiers. It will change the entire world into one co-operative community, make a reality of the brotherhood and friendship of all peoples. Only the victory of the proletariat can open a forward road for humanity: and that final victory will be the beginning of the real history of liberated mankind.

C) PROLETARIAN INTERNATIONALISM

We orientate ourselves on the programme of a world struggle for socialism: we are proletarian internationalists. The struggle for the Workers' Republic in Ireland is part of a global struggle by the world's workers for socialism. Capitalism is not a national, but an organic world system, and our battle for socialism is necessarily part of a world struggle of the proletariat as a world revolutionary class. The workers of Ireland have more in common with the workers of every other country than with the capitalists of Ireland.

We declare our active revolutionary solidarity with all those forces struggling against capitalism and imperialism the world over. We declare our solidarity with the workers in the bonapartist Stalinist states in their struggle to overthrow the privileged parasitic bureaucracy, establish proletarian democracy and re-organise the economy under their own control. At the same time we defend unconditionally against imperialism these states, where the rule of the bourgeoisie and of imperialism has been overthrown, believing that any victory for imperialism would be totally reactionary. Only the revolt of the working class in Russia, China, Yugoslavia etc., can offer any progressive alternative to the present regime there.

D) CAPITALISM IN IRELAND

Ireland's place in the world capitalist system has always been a unique one — that of a backyard affixed to and controlled by England. Her economic growth is enmeshed in a combined "development" with England. Dominated and exploited by her stronger neighbour, Ireland graphically illustrates all the negative aspects of capitalism.

Even when it was progressive on a world scale, in Ireland capitalism meant foreign domination and oppression of the people, despoliation, economic exploitation, deliberate retardation, depopulation of whole areas, a permanent wasting disease of human resources — and finally partition with its internal tariffs and economic stagnation. The short economic boom of the late 1950s had already fizzled out in the early 60s. Now the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement means a new economic Act of Union.

Economic freedom will only become real under socialism, through socialist international co-operation. Irish capitalism is a stunted growth, joined at the spine to Britain, presided over by a feeble, split bourgeoisie utterly incapable now as in the past of organising even a minimal economic life for the people of Ireland, and equally incapable of realising economic autonomy. The Irish bourgeoisie long ago played out the meagre progressive role allotted it by circumstances on the stage of Irish history.

The one serious progressive act of imperialism and Irish capitalism has been the creation of an Irish proletariat capable of putting an end to capitalism's futile existence, and capable, as part of the world revolutionary class, of realising the ages-old dream of the people of Ireland for freedom. The best traditions of the old, bourgeois, republicanism have passed to the socialist working class, the only class in Ireland today capable of transforming society and the subordinate relationship with Great Britain — the only unconditionally revolutionary class. The only genuine liberation of Ireland will be from the inexorable — uncontrolled — pressure of international capitalism. All the essential goals of all the past defeated and deflected struggles of the Irish people over the centuries, against oppression and for freedom of development and freedom from exploitation, can now only be realised in a Republic of the working people, as part of the Socialist United States of Europe and the world.

The IWG. stands against the divided Irish bourgeoisie, Green, Orange and Green-White-and-Orange alike, and for the revolutionary unity of the workers of all Ireland in a struggle for state power. The Irish working class has no common interest with any section of the Irish bourgeoisie. As for the petty bourgeoisie, any revolutionary role for the small farmers against the bourgeoisie is entirely conditional on the rise of the urban and rural proletariat to leadership of that class, and above all on its separation from the big capitalist farmers. A proletarian/worker-farmer alliance is in turn only conceivable as an incidental in a working-class movement fighting for its own class aims.

We stand for the revolutionary combat against imperialism and national oppression in every form, whether that of garrison imperialism, neo-colonialism or the glaring economic domination of the small nations by the super-powers which is inevitable where the capitalist world market remains as the sole regulator of relationships, But we denounce those who, in the name of "Republicanism" and "anti-imperialism" attempt to subordinate the working class to any section of the bourgeoisie and who counterpose a defunct petit bourgeois nationa1 narrow-mindedness to the socialist struggle of the workers for power. National unity will be achieved, if not by the coming-together of the Irish capitalist class under the auspices of the British imperialist state and the capitalist drive towards West European federation, then as an incidental in the proletarian revolution. The possibility of any other revolutionary reunification is long since passed. The only revolutionary republicanism today is the internationalist socialism republicanism of the proletariat.

E) THE WORKERS' REPUBLIC

The only road to the re-organisation of society is the conquest of state power by the working class. The proletariat must take power, turn it against the class enemy, and use it as a lever to expropriate the exploiting classes and imperialism, establish the workers' Republic and begin the economic and social transformation — the building of socialism. The workers' conquest of power will not mean achieving majorities in bourgeois parliaments and installing socialist ministers to drive the existing state machinery. Workers' power necessitates the breaking up of the political power of the bourgeoisie by the mass action of the armed working class, and the breaking up of the existing state apparatus which sanctifies and defends the exploiting class. The existing state machinery with its bourgeois-type army, led by bourgeois officers; its civil and political police — and in the North the sectarian special constables; its judges, prison warders and governors; its priests, various persuasions and other ideologists; its civil service, functionaries and officials; its sham parliamentary democracy:- this will all be dismantled. Workers' Power means the disarming of the bourgeoisie and their officer castes and other reactionary armed groups — and the self-arming of the proletariat organised as a Citizen Red Army. It means the abolition of the bourgeois laws — with their typically bourgeois bias in favour of property against life — and law courts and it means their replacement by workers' law and proletarian courts. It means the secularisation of all state and social life: the elimination of all religious instruction in schools, the removal from religious institutions of all state patronage and subsidy, and the making of religion into a private matter in relation to society, thus finally eliminating in practice the sectarian rivalries which have helped imperialism and the Irish bourgeoisie to split the working class.

In short it means the elaboration of working class organs of administration of a new type, and with this the complete, transparent democratisation of all social life-best expressed in the replacement of bourgeois parliamentarianism by a regime of Workers' Councils, organised in a pyramid with immediate recall at each level as a guarantee of representativeness. All states before the October Revolution were organs of a ruling minority to suppress and manipulate the vast exploited majority and therefore functioned through a permanent bureaucracy attuned to the needs of the ruling class. The Workers' Republic is the rule of the majority, organised through the workers' councils, without standing army or permanent bureaucracy, needing repression initially only against the formerly exploiting minority. Therefore the character of this semi-state of the working class is radically different. Whereas bourgeois democracy is based on a state of exploitation of the vast majority, and is only an empty, legalist formula masking a bourgeois dictatorship, the Workers' Republic means real democracy, the reality of the controlling will of the proletariat: it is democracy by and for the working people against the exploiters.

In the Workers' Republic the means of life well be social property. The factories, mines, land, and means of transport and communication will be the common property of the people, controlled democratically. All imperialist economic holdings will be expropriated. Large-scale industry will be nationalised, as will the banks and insurance companies. (Nationalisation being understood as the transference of ownership to the workers' state under the direct socialist management of the working class. The existing state-capitalist enterprise will also be transformed into social property by the workers' state.) Large estates and capitalist agricultural undertakings will be nationalised. There will be state monopoly of the wholesale trade, nationalisation for the use of the people of large houses in town and country. Small property, urban and rural, will not be expropriated, and non-exploiters will not be coerced. Only when the small farmers can see the advantages of amalgamations and large-scale agriculture and themselves desire this will there be any question of reorganisation here. Until that time, planning by the Workers' state will at least free the small farmer from the disastrous effects of the present anarchic capitalist system.

On a local level workers' management will be the rule; on a national level economic functions will be centralised in the hands of the democratically controlled Workers' state: the central and local will interact and mutually adjust to each other. For the first time a rational economy planned in the interests of the self-controlling working masses will be possible.

F. THE CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP

In Ireland today the proletariat is the locus of all real progress. But the present condition of the labour movement prevents it from playing the role — it alone can play — of revolutionary reorganiser of society. The existing organisations are under bourgeois domination in varying degrees: in particular the domination of bourgeois ideology and the bourgeois state. The trade union bureaucracy is a petit bourgeois outgrowth from the working class and a major agency for bourgeois influence on it. The Labour Parties — despite their worker origins and membership and their vague socialism, function as a limb of the capitalist system, aiding in the control of the working class. They reject class struggle and categories, particularly in relation to the state, which they insist on seeing as neutral. Refusing to understand that socialism is only possible as the result of a proletarian victory against the bourgeoisie, these organisations have sidetracked the workers for decades. They ape the capitalists even to the extent of reproducing the regional divisions of the bourgeois-Imperialist partition! In that they make tentative steps towards reunification, echoing timidly the growing cordiality of the capitalists, it only shows once more that they remain true to themselves — or rather, to the bourgeois! The various Irish Stalinist grouplets, here as elsewhere have sunk to level of social-democrats, preaching parliamentarianism north and south of the border. In the South they combine these tendencies with a straight-forward petit-bourgeois nationalism. They too echo the bourgeois-Imperialist divisions, with Orange "Communism" in the north and Green (Catholic) "Communism" in the south.

In this form the crisis of proletarian leadership which afflicts the world labour movement presents itself in Ireland. This crisis manifests itself absolutely in times of decisive clashes in the defeat of the class. It manifests itself relatively at other times in a loss of effectiveness in struggles on wages and conditions. in Ireland the disastrous effects of the feebleness of labour leadership first asserted themselves in the abstention of Labour from fighting for a Workers' Republic during and after the War of Independence — and their feebleness has manifested itself in big things and small ever since. Today it expresses itself in a sharp growing together of the trade union bureaucracy and the state, and in the utter failure of the Labour Parties and unions to fight in earnest the attempts of the bourgeoisie to unload their problems onto the working class.

The continued existence of world capitalism to its present over-ripe stage is the direct result of this crisis of leadership. Time after time in the past decades, in country after country, in tune to the convulsions of what could have been capitalism's death agony, the workers have moved against capitalism. Each time the conservative apparatus of the labour organisations, political parties and trade unions have held the class back, demoralised it, derailed it, deflected its blows from the weakest points in the enemy's defences: in every decisive clash the workers have been misled to bloody defeat.

The Communist Parties were founded after World War I to oppose the renegade Social-Democratic apparatus which had become the hangman of the European revolution. But the result of the Social-Democratic betrayal of the post-war revolutionary upsurge were to mean the isolation and degeneration of the one victorious workers' revolution and within a decade, under the influence of' the burgeoning Stalin dictatorship in Russia, the new Communist Parties began to play the same sort of role, ever-more openly, ever-more treacherously — and far more effectively for, after all. they carried the banner of the October Revolution. Despite their successive acts of renegacy it has required a whole historic period, the experiences of the Hungarian Revolution and the-break-up of the Stalinist monolith to present again the opportunity for the solution of the crisis of proletarian leadership in the building of a new mass workers' international and of new national sections of this international revolutionary party,

Capitalism, the most dynamic and adaptable system in human history, has survived despite the murderous crises by which it has been wracked throughout most of this century. If circumstances permit it to pay the necessary price in an ever-increasing toll of proletarian blood and degradation there are no insoluble crises for capitalism. The bourgeoisie will not fall automatically into history's abyss. it is a highly conscious force, struggling for its positions, capable of defeating the proletariat time after time and even of' dragging it down into nuclear war: the victory of the proletariat depends on conscious preparation, on its ability to struggle effectively and successfully to deliberately take control of society out of the hands of the bourgeoisie. (And this consciousness is the necessary pre-requisite for socialism.) In immediate practical terms it depends on our ability to construct a world revolutionary organisation, with strong national sections, as a solution to the crisis of leadership. The IWG will play its part in resolving this crisis.

G. TRADITIONS

The IWG bases itself on the political and organisationa1 positions of the First - four, Leninist-Trotskyist, Congresses of the Communist Internationa1 and on the Transitional Programme of the Founding Congress of the World Party of the Socialist Revolution (Fourth International). These Congresses, representing the highest peak of consciousness attained by the Marxist movement of the world, summed up and codified the global experience of the proletarian struggle, and in particular the experience of the October Revolution .

The Programme of world revolution elaborated at these Congresses remains the only basis and guideline for serious socialist activity. The Congresses of the early Comintern, flushed with all the optimism of the great October Revolution, were followed after only 10 years by the founding congress of the Fourth International. The founding of the Third Internationa1 had been the signal for a return to the revolutionary Marxism of Marx and Engels, cleansed of Social-Democratic perversion. And in 1938 the rearguard of Bolshevism sobered, temporarily isolated, hardened by the experience of battle against the new Stalinist corruption and tempered in the tragic defeats of the working class at this period, re-proclaimed once more the politics of unfalsified Bolshevism. The true vanguard in a time of reaction, they held determinedly to the theoretical conquests of the working class — embodied in the documents we here endorse.

Despite the organisational disarray which isolation, ideological erosion and the blows of hostile forces have wreaked on the Fourth International, there exists no other stream of genuine Marxism, of working class revolutionary socialism, except Trotskyism. The Programme of the Fourth International is the present-day Bolshevism. Every other tendency, from Stalinism to Social-Democracy, is patently dead for accomplishing the historic task of the working class.

H) THE REVOLUTIONARY PARTY

World history shows that the proletariat cannot take power, in certain conditions cannot even defend itself, without a serious revolutionary organisation. The working class must generate a revolutionary leadership, tempered in struggle, a proletarian "column of steel": the Bolshevik type combat party. The IWG is the nucleus of such a party. Basing itself on the scientific world outlook of Marxism which it fuses with the labour movement in a dialectical unity, it aspires to enrol the post active and class conscious militants. As a whole it aspires to become the collective leadership of the class as a whole.

Basing ourselves on the concrete struggles of our class, we bring to these struggles the Transitional Programme of slogans and demands which pose evermore sharply the question of state power and control and thus serve as a bridge to the Workers' Republic — attempting systematically, on the basis of concrete issues, to mobilise the masses against the very basis of the bourgeois regime. We do not attempt to bind the movement in advance to any particular tactics or forms of struggle: nor do we reject any tactics or forms of struggle in advance. Unlike both the physical-force-on-principle and the legalists-on-principle for us the issue between armed struggle and the various forms of patient legal activity in the different fields of work is decided at each step by a concrete analysis. Our task is to lead and fuse the different fronts of the class struggle in a conscious strategy to win state power. This task demands a permanently mobilised disciplined organisation of active militants (however small in number) capable of responding to events with revolutionary seriousness, capable of bringing its collective weight and experience to bear on a given point of the struggle. The existence of this revolutionary socialist combat party is a pre-condition of working class ripeness for power. The building of this party begins with a merciless struggle against all bourgeois ideology and forms of organisation, so that it may strive to give full consciousness and comprehension of its situation to the broad labour movement and establish workers' power and socialism as the aim of that movement.

The form of organisation of the Group is Democratic Centralism, flexible fusion of both, adaptable in changing conditions to give the best combination of centralism in action and democracy in decision, in a variety of possible conditions. Each member is a cell of the organism and there are no dead cells. Only where a minimum of activity is a condition of membership can there be both a serious approach to activity and full conscious and deliberative democracy. Democratic Centralism means, in a word: "Without inner democracy - no revolutionary education. Without discipline — no revolutionary action. Full freedom in discussion, complete unity in action."

I). BUILD THE IRISH WORKERS GROUP

The Irish Workers' Group calls upon the best and most serious elements of the Irish working class to join it in the battle for socialism. To trade union militants we say — only the elimination of capitalism offers any long-term stable advances in wages and conditions. To socialists we say — the only viable socialism is the Marxist programme of class struggle and workers' power. To Republican activists we say — the only conceivable Republic that is other than a mockery of all the past struggles is the Workers' Republic.

The road of the IWG will not be an easy road. It is the dangerous road of Luxemburg, Liebknecht, Connolly, Mellows and of Leon Trotsky. It is the road of not only the victorious Bolsheviks of 1917 but also of the unbroken Trotskyists of Vorkuta, bound together as they were by the common Programme on which we also stand. We know of no other road to socialism. We offer no smooth, mythological "peaceful transition to socialism", by permission of or in alliance with the capitalists — but a programme of harsh struggle. For us there can be no peaceful coexistence with imperialism and capitalism or with their agents and supporters within the labour movement: there is only irreconcilable conflict. The IWG. "uncompromisingly gives battle to all political groupings tied to the apron strings of the bourgeoisie. Its task — the abolition of capitalism's domination. Its aim — socialism. It's method — the proletarian revolution." Its rules are those codified by Trotsky for the Fourth International: "To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little things as in big ones; to base ones programme on the logic of the class struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives — these are the rules of the Fourth International."

We will recruit not those for whom socialism is a nice idea, a wish, a dream or a vague aspiration — but those for whom the struggle for socialism becomes the main content of their existence. We want not the spare evenings of dilettantes — but the active, dedicated lives of revolutionaries. The Irish Workers' Group will recruit the most active, most devoted, most self-sacrificing of the new revolutionary generation, and weld them into a force that will lead the working class to finally take full control of their own lives and of their own destiny. The Programme of Lenin and Trotsky will enable the organisation to attract people of the essential quality for accomplishing this task.

Our confidence in the future of that Programme is as unshakeable as is our determination to build the Irish Workers Group into an organisation capable of fighting for it effectively.

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