Discussion/ study guide on Workers' Liberty 3/45, on Ireland

Submitted by AWL on 3 November, 2014 - 8:40 Author: Martin Thomas

Click here to download pdf of Workers' Liberty 3/45; click here to read it online.

# Why did Ireland figure as the iconic anti-imperialist struggle for many revolutionary socialists in 1940?

# How did the real Ireland of 1940 (let alone 2014) differ from the iconic Ireland? How had the "Irish question" changed since the Fenian rebellion of 1867 to which Marx responded? Or since the war of independence of 1919-21?

# How were those changes in Ireland reflected in the debate among the Trotskyists in 1939? In that debate, what does "VF" get right, and what does he harmfully bury in generalities?

# What was wrong in the way the "Irish question" was presented in the Stalinist-influenced mainstream of the British (and Irish) left in the 1940s to the 1960s, as having become the question of ousting Britain from occupation of Northern Ireland and thus "completing the national revolution" and securing a united Ireland?

# Why did partition happen? And how? Why was it untenable despite not being just a British imposition?

# What was the "Two Nations theory" about Ireland which had influence in parts of the left in the 1970s? (For some narrative background, see here). What was wrong with this theory?

# What did the Irish Trotskyists, or Trotsky-influenced socialists, say in the 1940s and 1950s? About the "Irish question"? About the Irish trade unions? About why the Irish Labour Party was so feeble?

# How did they describe the IRA of the era leading up to the Border Campaign of 1956-62? Why?

# Why did Socialist Review (forerunner of IS and SWP) add "the reunification of an independent Ireland" to its statement of aims in 1957, and drop it in 1958? What did they mean by it?

# The SR position of 1957-8 was somewhat discussed (while there was very little discussion of Ireland elsewhere on the British left, and not much of an Irish left). That position had two basic themes, apparently running in opposite directions - acceptance of the Catholic-nationalist middle-class picture of the "Irish question", and advocacy that two separate socialist revolutions be made, in Ireland south and north, before anything could be done about that "Irish question". How and why did SR reconcile those two themes?

# What had changed in Ireland when socialists discussed the Irish question again in 1968-9?

# In 1968-9 the (non-Stalinist) left in Northern Ireland was new and inchoate, but relatively well-placed and influential. It was very quickly eclipsed and marginalised. How? Why?

# How did the themes of the 1957-8 discussion shape IS (SWP)'s attitudes in 1968-9? What other influences shaped them?

# Why did IS(SWP) swing from shouting about troops out in early 1969, in a way we criticised as mis-focused, to de facto support for troops in August 1969?

# What was wrong with the IS(SWP) argument that they were criticising the British troops in propaganda, but agitation was about calls to action, and therefore they should in agitation recognise the positive role, for a while, of British troops? What should the relation be between agitation and propaganda?

# What had changed in Ireland by the time of the next sizeable discussion on the left, the one in Socialist Organiser in 1983 collected and commented on at www.workersliberty.org/node/8150? What were the issues in that 1983 debate?

# By then the standard would-be Trotskyist response to the Stalinist-influenced argument (as above) that the next task in Ireland was "to complete the national-democratic revolution" was to say that the Stalinist-minded saw that in terms of "stages theory" but the would-be Trotskyists instead approached the task in terms of "permanent revolution". Why was wrong or lacking in that response?