1916 Cmdt-General Sean McLoughlin on the social programme anti-Treaty forces needed to win the civil war

On the Friday evening, as the 1916 Easter Rising which had begun on the Monday morning was drawing to a close, 21-year-old Sean McLoughlin had so impressed James Connolly and other leaders that he was appointed overall military commander.  This was done due to the incapacitation of the badly-wounded Connolly, the original commandant-general of all the insurrectionary forces.  McLoughlin then led the break-out from the GPO and into Moore Street.

Below is an article that Sean McLoughlin wrote shortly after the civil war broke out in June 1922.  Along with Roddy Connolly and others, he had set up the shortlived very first Communist Party of Ireland and the article was published in the August 19th issue of their paper, The Workers Republic (named after James Connolly’s pre-1916 paper).

In the original, the second section (“Free State Methods”) was one huge paragraph.  I have broken this up into several; this is the only editing – I decided, for instance, not to change his use and non-use of commas and the bold, upper case subheads are as in the original.

This is the first of several of his articles which I will be getting up here, although I am also busy typing up more articles from the 1840s by Fintan Lalor, a project which got stalled for some time unfortunately.

The text here is taken from Charlie McGuire’s excellent bio of Sean McLoughlin – I thoroughly recommend this to all republicans, especially socialist-republicans.  Buy it!  Read it!  If you can’t afford it, get your library to buy a copy.

Social Programme for Republicans

by Sean McLoughlin


Since the beginning of the present struggle against the forces of the Free State the Irish Republican Army in the field has been able to withstand all the attacks of its enemies, and at the present moment occupies a favourable position from a military point of view.  The positions held are being strengthened, supplies are good, and most important of all, the morale of the Army is splendid.  Yet these things while being fine achievements do not necessarily spell victory for the Republican forces.

In order to carry the war to a successful issue, it is essential that the Republican authorities seize every opportunity of any nature, that will assist the gallant troops in the field.  To be successful in a revolutionary struggle, something more than military prowess and skill must be taken into account.  It is the duty of those responsible for maintaining the fight for the Republic to inquire into ways and means that will ensure a speedy and successful termination to the present struggle.


First of all it will do no harm to analyse the methods adopted by the Free State, and to examine the forces behind it.  When the Free State Provisional Government struck at the Republicans entrenched in the Four Courts, they were of the opinion that a swift and sudden blow, if successfully struck, would put all organised opposition to their plans definitely and for ever out of the way.  Their plan failed because of the loyalty of the sections of the IRA outside Dublin.

Foiled in their attempt to crush the Republican opposition at one blow, they soon realised that they were faced with a long and protracted struggle, and immediately began to mobilise all the forces possible.  They carried on propaganda on an extensive scale, claiming that they were hard-headed practical men, whose sole aim was the regeneration of Ireland, all they wanted was peace, prosperity, and trade, and above all law and order.  When the reactionary and anti-Irish elements realised what the nature of the new Government was, they immediately rallied to its support.

Capitalists, large landowners, ranchers, shopkeepers, etc praised the wisdom of Collins and Griffiths,* and firms like Guinness urged their men to join the Free State Army.  When Collins found he had rallied sufficient support he immediately hurled his armies against the forces of the Republic, and proclaimed to the world that his only reason for doing this was, that the Republicans were wild men, visionaries, dreamers, and looters who were out to destroy his schemes for Irish property.  The reactionary press opened in full blast on behalf of the Free State, and the lie factories worked overtime.  Yet in spite of all this, the Free State would have failed in their offensive, were it not that economic forces operated to aid them.

Large numbers of men from the towns and the countryside flocked to the recruiting stations, in response to frantic newspaper appeals for me.  These men did not respond because they believed in the Free State or because they were hostile to the Republic, but solely because unemployment, misery, and hunger drove them, and here was a way of escape from their misery.

It will be objected – “But these men couldhave joined up with the Republicans”.  The truth is they never had the chance.  The Free State Government was strong in Dublin. it was centralised, it had the power, money and influence of Imperial Britain.  While the Republicans were falling back in the South and organising their forces, the way was left clear for the Free State to consolidate its position and capture the waverers.


In spite of the amount of propaganda carried on it is generally admitted that the mass of the workers and peasants are apathetic to the Free State, and in some cases even hostile.  This does not mean that these people are sympathetic to the Republicans.  On the contrary, the same spirit is manifested against both sides.  The only party that derives any support from these sections (the workers and peasants) is the Labour Party.  But it is a party unable to use this support, partly because of disunity in its ranks, and partly through cowardice.  It is thus a vacillating party swining to whatever side seems strongest and most likely to win.


No party in Ireland today can win without the active assistance and co-operation of the workers and peasants, who, holding economic power can strangle any Government or party which fails to deal with them correctly.  To win this war, it is of the most vital importance that workers and peasants be won over by the Republicans, and to do this the Republican Executive must draw up a programme that will meet the most pressing needs of the labouring masses.  No party in the world today can exist without formulating its programme in a clear and lucid manner.  The Free State Provisional Government has outlined its programme and policy, both harmonising with the Policy and programme pursued by the Imperial Government of Great Britain, government by the few for the many, exploitation of the poor and weak, and aggrandisement for the powerful and rich, the bayonet and prison cell for those who disagree.  This programme will not attract the masses.  It remains for the Republicans by outlining just and equitable proposals, and an honest and fearless economic policy, to capture the people, and so win the present struggle.


At the present moment the people are asked to support a Republic without being told what kind of Republic they are to get.  The people are tired of war, they have suffered for many years for an ideal.  That ideal is gradually receding into the shadow.  The worn-out, impoverished and struggling masses need the substance more than the shadow.  Idealists may die, and do, for principles, but People cannot die en masse for dreams.  The Irish people have gone a long way on the road.  Let the Republicans show that they are not mere dreamers and visionaries, but men who can translate dreams into realities, and visions into tangible good for the benefit of those in Ireland who have borne the brunt of the struggle agaist a foreign imperialism.


In addition to securing the support of the masses of the Irish people a just and fair economic programme, carried through by the Republicans for the benefit of the Irish masses, will be bound to attract the sympathy and support of the oppressed elements in every corner of the world.  International support is of the highest importance to the Republicans, in these days when the oppressed elements in every country are tending more and more to international solidarity as a means to assist them in their common struggle against the plundering imperialistic Empires and exploiters of the entire world.

The fate of Ireland is now in the hands of the Republicans.  If they fail, the responsibility will lie with them if they have not used the opportunities which presented themselves.

*Note: I left this error as was, rather than correcting it to Griffith.  Griffith had actually died on August 12, just a week before this article was published, the strain of running the counter-revolutionary state being a major factor.  Collins, the original ‘hard man’ of the Free State, would be ambushed and killed just three days after its publication.  However, the Free Staters had replacements who, if anything, were even more reactionary and ruthless.

Posted on January 15, 2018, in Counter-revolution/civil war period, Democratic rights - general, Economy and workers' resistance, Free State in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Imperialism (generally), Labour Party, Political education and theory, Republicanism post-1900, Revolutionary figures, Sean McLoughlin, Social conditions, Toadyism, Workers rights. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great revue Philip. I read this book on the life of Sean McLoughlin by Charlie McGuire when it was first published a few years back, excellent read. I gave a copy to Frank K who is always devouring books. I must ask him what did he think of it.

  2. I’m just starting to write a review of the book. Charlie McG would be a great person to get over to Dublin to speak on McLoughlin, especially as McLoughlin was from the north inner city. Charlie McG also wrote a book on Roddy Connolly. I held off buying it as it is only available in hardback, which is difficult to afford, but there’s no sign of it ever coming out on paperback so I finally bit the bullet and forked out for the hardback today.

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