Workers' Liberty 3/18: When the workers rise

When the workers rise

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

“For the first time in the history of the labour movement the struggle is being so conducted that its three sides, the theoretical, the political, and the practical-economic (opposition to the capitalists), form one harmonious and well-planned entity”. Frederick Engels, 1874

The subordinate class — subordinate to the ruling class economically, politically, and in its ideas — that does not know its own history can never reap the full benefit of that history. It cannot learn the lessons and put them to use in the future.

In this, the first of a number of pamphlet issues on labour’s great battles in the past, Workers’ Liberty covers the two great 1919 strikes, in Belfast and Glasgow, and the 1913 lockout/ strike in Dublin, the “Labour War” that dragged on for over six months.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Revolt on the Clyde

Author: 

Stan Crooke

In 1919 Glasgow was in the grip of a general strike. Although the strike began with the limited demand of a cut in the working Week, it raised — as general strikes do by their very nature — the question of power in society. The strike leaders saw the strike purely in terms of a fight for the 40 hour week, but the press treated it as a threat to the capitalist order of society itself. And for once the press was right.

In 1919 Glasgow was in the grip of a general strike.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Lessons of the Great Belfast Strike of 1919

Author: 

Michael Farrell

1919 was a year of turmoil all over Europe. In the confusion following the break up of three great empires in World War I — the Russian, Turkish and Austrian empires — the working class began to assert itself. In Russia the young Bolshevik republic was fighting for its life. In Bavaria and Hungary short-lived Soviet Republics were established, and in Vienna and Berlin there were socialist uprisings.

There can be few clearer examples in history of the ephemeral effect of purely economic militancy. The greatest labour upheaval in Belfast’s history left scarcely a ripple on the political consciousness of the city’s workers.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Jim Larkin: the Irish Apostle of Labour Solidarity

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

In March 1947, an immense crowd of people, 200,000 of them, many of the men bare-headed in freakishly Arctic weather, marched through Dublin behind the coffin of Jim Larkin, the founder of the modern Irish labour movement. He is the greatest figure in Irish labour history. James Connolly, Larkin’s partner between 1910 and 1914, was far more clever and far better educated, but it was Larkin who touched the workers of the slums with the holy fire of righteous indignation, and ignited them in revolt.

Larkin was the founder of the modern Irish labour movement. He is the greatest figure in Irish labour history.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Marxists and mass workers’ parties

Author: 

Karl Kautsky

Evolving out of the trade unions, adopting a formal commitment to socialism only in 1918, two decades after its formation, the Labour Party puzzled and perplexed European Marxists. It was accepted into membership of the Socialist International in 1908 on the grounds that it fought the class struggle even though it did not “recognise” it and was independent. Karl Kautsky, the leading Marxist of the time, wrote a resolution to that effect.

Evolving out of the trade unions, adopting a formal commitment to socialism only in 1918, two decades after its formation, the Labour Party puzzled and perplexed European Marxists.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

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