Category Archives: Political education and theory

Seamus Costello

October 5 marked the 40th anniversary of his murder by the Officials.

There’s a chunk of material on him here and some also on the other blog I’m involved in, Redline.

The stuff on this blog includes:

1975 interview with Seamus on the initial attempts of the Sticks to destroy the IRSP

Text of speech by Sean Doyle, a comrade of Seamus in Wicklow, on the 35th anniversary of the murder

Miriam Daly – successor to Seamus and murdered a few years later – on Seamus

1969 educational talk by Seamus on Democracy and the Mass Movement

Seamus Costello’s 1966 Bodenstown speech

There is also lots of material on particular commemorations re comrade Costello.  If you click into the categories section, you’ll find there is a Seamus Costello category and you’ll find much more stuff there.

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Is the six-county state reformable?

The People’s Democracy organisation (now Socialist Democracy) argued, from its start in 1968, that the northern state is irreformable.

by Socialist Democracy*

In June, following the Stormont elections, the Irish blogger “Sráid Marx” wrote about socialists and elections, arguing for a reformist movement that would open a space for working class politics to advance.

The article contained many assertions that were not strongly based on evidence. Apparently by issuing a call to”Smash Stormont” we in Socialist Democracy had proved ourselves the worst kind of ultra leftists, opposed to any reform, even though our entire history refutes that claim. SM cast a vote for People Before Profit on the grounds that this was the way to build a movement that would go through Stormont in order to destroy it (PBP have expressed no such ambition, rather calling for a left wing Stormont).

A serious weakness is the dismissal of Sinn Fein as a “Catholic party,” the green equivalent of the DUP. It is true that this is their mode of operation in the various carve-ups in Stormont, but it does not sum up the party itself or the dynamic of their supporters. Sinn Fein presents itself as a party of the left. Their main demands at the moment – an Irish Language Act, LGBT marriage rights, investigation of state killings, are essentially democratic demands. Their attitude to supporters of unionism is essentially conciliatory, arguing that the political structures can act to reduce sectarianism. When Stormont was operating they were the main conduit of trade union lobbying campaigns. It is not so long ago that the SM blog itself proposed Sinn Fein as a central element of a reformist movement in the 26 county state!

To assert that Sinn Fein are two-faced and will not deliver or that they do not represent the interests of workers is one thing. To assert equivalence between them and the full-throated sectarian triumphalism of the Democratic Unionist Party is quite another.

It is true that Sinn Fein voters, along with the majority of the nationalist population, hold the  Read the rest of this entry

Where, oh where, is our James Connolly?

by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh

“There is always some excuse ready for evasion. The difficulty is, that every party likes some part of the truth; no party likes it all; but we must have it all, every line of it. We want no popular editions and no philosophic selections—the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” —Terence MacSwiney, Principles of Freedom

SIPTU’s Head of Research publicly announced in 2001 that the union would be sponsoring “the publication in several volumes of all Connolly’s articles and letters”, which would “at last enable us to appreciate Connolly’s own originality and greatness to the full”.1 I happened to be sitting next to him on the platform, and in my own contribution I welcomed the announcement but hoped people wouldn’t take it as a signal to sit back and think all was now well in the world of publishing Connolly. I was aiming for that curious amalgam that goes under the name of ‘cautious optimism’, and probably came off as a moany old begrudger. In fact, I was guilty of being far too generous altogether.

Recovering Connolly

My presence on that platform was a result of the momentum that had been building up for five years previously. On the unveiling of a statue of Connolly in Dublin in 1996, I was allowed to point out in the programme that hundreds of his articles had never been made available since their original publication, and to republish the first Connolly work for twenty years.2 The year after, The Lost Writings was published, in which I assembled 65 articles of his unpublished since his execution. It never ceased to amaze me how many people were under the sincere impression up until then that all of Connolly’s work was available. The Collected Works title put on a reprint of previous Connolly selections in 1987-8 had been taken all too literally by many. Also in 1997 Red Banner began its ‘Hidden Connolly’ series, underlining that The Lost Writings wasn’t even the half of it.

A group including some prominent labour historians then tried to get an initiative off the ground which would assemble a team of researchers to publish all of Connolly’s works, an initiative which had the blessing of the Labour Party leader (dubious as that may be). But the SIPTU announcement cut the feet from under that. While ‘The Hidden Connolly’ continued to mine a seemingly inexhaustible seam, any impetus towards publishing Connolly’s complete writings was sucked into the Liberty Hall plughole.

The first fruit of SIPTU’s project appeared in 2005 in the shape of a Connolly biography by Dónal Nevin. It was a disappointing work, but promised Read the rest of this entry

1932 Open Letter from leadership of Irish Republican Army to men and women of the Orange Order

 

[This is the text as quoted by The Kerryman on 16th July 1932. It was published in An Phoblacht, the weekly newspaper of the Irish Republican Army, the same day.  It was largely written by Army Council member Peadar O’Donnell. Along with a covering letter from the IRA’s Adjutant-General, Donal O’Donoghue, the address to the Orange Order had been sent out to newspaper editors on July 8.  Most, even the Unionist Belfast Newsletter, published abridged versions as early as July 11, 1932. The formatting here is from The Kerryman version. The address was distributed as leaflets in Unionist districts of Belfast by IRA volunteers.]

AN ADDRESS FROM THE ARMY COUNCIL OF THE IRISH REPUBLICAN ARMY TO THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE ORANGE ORDER (JULY 1932)

Fellow Countrymen and Women,

It is a long call from the ranks of the Irish Republican Army to the marching throngs that hold the 12th July Celebrations in North East Ulster. Across the space we have sometimes exchanged shots, or missiles or hard words, but never forgetting that on occasions our ancestors have stood shoulder to shoulder. Some day we will again exchange ideas and then the distance, which now separates us, will shorten. For we of the Irish Republican Army believe that inevitably the small farmers and wage-earners in the Six County area will make common cause with those of the rest of Ireland, for the common good of the mass of the people in a Free United Irish Republic. Such a conviction is forming itself in an ever increasing number of minds in North East Ulster.

The Irish Republican Army – within North East Ulster as well as in the rest of Ireland – believe that the mass of the Working-Farmers and Wage-earners must organise behind revolutionary leadership if they are to rescue themselves from a system within the few prosper and the many are impoverished.

It is our opinion, a conviction driven in on our mind by the facts of life around us, that capitalism and imperialism constitute a system of Read the rest of this entry

Sylvia Pankhurst on the 1916 Rising

Sylvia Pankhurst was a leader of the struggle for women’s right to vote in Britain.  Primarily involved in organising working class women in the East End of London, she was increasingly attracted to Marxism.  Her support for workers’ struggles led to her being expelled from the bourgeois-feminist Women’s Social and Political Union, led by her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel.  While the feminist family members turned into warmongers in the First World War, Sylvia organised against the war on a working class and anti-imperialist basis.  She was one of the small handful of major figures on the British left who supported the national liberation struggle in Ireland, including the 1916 Rising.  This article was originally published in the Women’s Dreadnought of May 13, 1916, the day after the last of the executions of leaders of the Rising.  The paper soon after changed its name to Workers Dreadnought.   The text below is taken from the Marxist Internet Archive. 

by Sylvia Pankhurst

Justice can make but one reply to the Irish rebellion, and that is to demand that Ireland shall be allowed to, govern herself.

Differences of opinion in England, Scotland, or Wales as to what measure of self-government Ireland is to have ought not to affect the matter – by the “freedom of small nations” which the British Government has so bombastically sworn to defend, this is essentially a question for Ireland herself to decide. Let a popular vote be taken in Ireland as to whether, she shall be an independent, self-governing republic, or an autonomous part of the British Empire, like Australia and New Zealand. That is the only method by which the Irish difficulty can be solved and Ireland learn content.

The “firm and vigorous administration” which The Times demands for Ireland, which we suspect is but another term for coercion, and such suggestions as that of the professing Liberal, Professor Longford, that conscription shall be applied to Ireland, and that the Irish Rebels shall be set free on condition that they join the Army, will only lead to Read the rest of this entry

Lindie Naughton’s biography of Markievicz

I must admit that when I saw journalist Lindie Naughton had a book coming out on Markievicz my initial response was one of trepidation.  Even if it was a good book, what was there left to put into a Markievicz bio that hadn’t already been covered by Anne Marreco, Jacqueline Van Voris, Diana Norman and Anne Haverty?

To my delight – especially since I bought the book after a few internet chats with Lindie  – I can report that Lindie’s biography does bring more stuff to the table and is a really good read.  In fact, I found reading the lead-up to the Rising had me quite excited, indeed riveted.

Lindie has made a good deal of use of the Bureau of Military History archives, most particularly the witness statements from the revolutionary period.

She seems to have been through papers of the time pretty methodically, looking for more stuff by and about Markievicz, as well as using the body of Markievicz’s articles that I dug up in the 1980s and put up on this site when I started it.

One result is that, even though I think a know a lot about Markievicz, I have found out more by reading this book.  I think it’s also interesting that Lindie has brought a journalist’s research skills to the work – these are far superior to those of a so-called professional historian like Anne Matthews.  And, speaking of Matthews, Lindie puts another nail in the coffin of Matthews’ attempt to frame up Markievicz for shooting an unarmed Dublin cop at point-blank range and then gloating over it (Anne Haverty also demolishes this frame-up).  I did, however, think Lindie could have said a bit more about the problematic nature of the Geraldene Fitzgerald claim to have witnessed Markievicz killing the Dublin policeman and exulting over it, especially as she had mentioned to me some problems with the Fitzgerald statement.  While Anne Haverty utterly demolishes Matthews’ attempt to stitch up Markievicz on that one, Lindie does, however, show it to be highly unlikely that Markievicz did any such thing.  Also, Lindie notes that Connolly had specifically ordered ICA members not to shoot unarmed cops and soldiers.

Below is a page from Lindie’s bio.  It will give you a taste for the book and, I hope, encourage you to go out and buy it.  It deserves to sell well and be well-read.  The extract deals with some stuff at Liberty Hall a few weeks before the Rising:

By the time the police returned, Connolly, Constance and Helena Molony, all armed, were Read the rest of this entry

Fenian Declaration of an Irish Republic, 1867

Taken from An Sionnach Fionn; GRMMA, mo chara.  It’s the 1867 Fenian declaration of an Irish Republic.

The Irish People to the World

We have suffered centuries of outrage, enforced poverty, and bitter misery. Our rights and liberties have been trampled on by an alien aristocracy, who treating us as foes, usurped our lands, and drew away from our unfortunate country all material riches. The real owners of the soil were removed to make room for cattle, and driven across the ocean to seek the means of living, and the political rights denied to them at home, while our men of thought and action were condemned to loss of life and liberty. But we never lost the memory and hope of a national existence. We appealed in vain to the reason and sense of justice of the dominant powers. Our mildest remonstrance’s were met with sneers and contempt. Our appeals to arms were always unsuccessful.

Today, having no honourable alternative left, we again appeal to force as our last resource. We accept the conditions of appeal, manfully deeming it better to die in the struggle for freedom than to continue an existence of utter serfdom.

All men are born with equal rights, and in associating to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it.

We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchical Government, we aim at founding a Read the rest of this entry

Video of the discussion period at Peter Graham commemorative meeting

Peter Graham – revolutionary militant

Peter holding Young Socialists banner, Dublin 1968

Peter holding Young Socialists banner, Dublin 1968

by Mick Healy

“In 1966 we in Ireland celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rebellion (1916). The writings of James Connolly, which prior to then had been read little, and then only by the older hands’, began to be read more widely. The younger generation found through his writings that he was not quite as the Christian Brothers in school taught – “only the 7th leader’ of 19l6.” They found in his writings Connolly the revolutionary, the worker, the union organiser and Marxist”.
– Peter Graham, Workers Fight, June 1968.

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Funeral of Peter Graham, Dublin, 1971; Tariq Ali at centre

Comrades who have read about the Irish Revolution know something about the contributions made by Nora Connolly O’Brien, Michael Davitt, Liam Mellows and Frank Ryan, but many do not understand the important contributions made by significant but lesser-known figures such as revolutionary Marxist Peter Graham.  Peter came from 46 Reginald Street in the Liberties of Dublin and attended Bolton St College of Technology. Working as an electrician in CIE he was a shop-steward for the Electrical Trade Union.  He joined the Labour Party, but discontented with their lack of radicalism shifted over to the Communist Party.  Disillusioned with their reformism, he left and became involved with Irish Workers Group and then the League for a Workers’ Republic, an organisation openly declaring itself revolutionary and Marxist, identifying with the Trotskyist current of Marxism.

With single-minded dedication he was the Read the rest of this entry

Peter Graham commemoration, Dublin, Feb 18

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