Category Archives: Political education and theory

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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The fight for women’s right to abortion in Ireland

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Right to abortion march, Dublin, September 2015.  Pic: Amnesty International

by J. McAnulty

On 25th November thousands of activists demonstrated in Dublin calling for the abolition of the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution – a section that asserts equal rights to life between the mother and foetus (the wording refers to the “unborn” which assumes that that life begins at conception). The demonstration was in part was a celebration of the decision by ICTU, the Irish trade union congress, to support the call to repeal the 8th. In tribute to recent mobilisations by Polish women, many wore black – the main symbol for the Polish demonstrations.

Yet the two campaigns are very different, and the comparison shows up many weaknesses in the Irish movement. They are similar in that both involve the mobilisation of tens of thousands of women, fed up with church and state ruling over their bodies. However in Poland we had a spontaneous movement that took strike action and went onto the streets in an instant and successful counter to an attack by the right, designed to extend the law to prevent abortion under any circumstances. The Irish movement is based around a call for a referendum to remove a decades old element of the constitution and is heavily dominated by the trade union bureaucracy and the populist and reformist politics they espouse.

The colour and militancy of the demonstrations tends to disguise the fact that the repeal campaign, as with anti-austerity campaigns and protests against water charges led by the union bosses, is at its heart a lobbying campaign aimed at persuading the Irish bourgeoisie to change direction. This limits both policy and tactics.

Weak campaign

Of course the idea that the constitution poses such a direct threat to women is repulsive and should always be opposed, but it is the Read the rest of this entry

Kevin Bean on revolution and counter-revolution in Ireland, c1880-1930

Kevin’s book The New Politics of Sinn Fein (Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2007) is essential reading for tracing the evolution of the Provos and how the British state drew them into a process of betrayal.  The talk below is from last August (August 2016), given at the Communist University in London.

Where to for republicans?

Paddy Browne is 4th from right

Paddy Browne is 4th from right

by Paddy Browne (1916 Societies, writing in personal capacity; I took this from The Pensive Quill, here)

It was a campaign that sent shivers through the British establishment and rocked it to its foundation. The commitment and ingenuity of the Óglaigh in the IRA and INLA – and the price paid by both organisations and the community in general – will never be forgotten. And while they may not have achieved the ultimate goal they most certainly advanced it.

People have been trying to mimic the campaign from 1997 without major success. They need to realise it is not enough to profess to fight a war when it is far from a reality – when your greatest contribution is to send our young men and women to gaol.

I believe the success of republicanism will come from the trust of the community in which we previously relied – heavily – in the past. It is through them that we must present our argument, for approval, and it is them that we need to support in their time of need.

Before we have unity in Ireland, with substance, we need a social revolution that will Read the rest of this entry

Seamus Costello interview (1975) on Officials’ attempts to destroy the IRSP

seamus-costello-sinn-fein-ard-fheisThe following interview was carried out in Dublin on May 16, 1975.  The Irish Republican Socialist Party  had been founded in December 1974, mainly by people who left the Official IRA and Official Sinn Fein as the Officials had abandoned both the national question and armed struggle against the British state’s intervention in Ireland and was moving rapidly into the political orbit of the East European regimes.  Costello had been a member of the seven-person IRA Army Council and vice-president of Sinn Fein and was the most prominent founder of the IRSP.

Shortly after its formation, the IRSP came under violent attack by the Officials.  The Officials, having been overtaken by the Provisional IRA in the six counties, seemed determined to destroy the IRSP because of the political threat it posed to them as they moved away from socialist republicanism.

 In October 1977, Seamus – by now the foremost representative of genuine socialist-republicanism – was murdered by the Officials as they continued to develop into an essentially pro-imperialist current, allied with the Soviet bloc regimes.  The interviewer was US socialist Gerry Foley and the interview appeared in the July 21 issue of Intercontinental Press, a weekly internationalist magazine connected to the Fourth International.

Gerry Foley: What happened to the truce that was in effect last time I was here, in early April?

Seamus Costello: What the truce consisted of was our people staying ‘offside’, not staying at home, not going to work, or not going to the Labour Exchange if they were unemployed.  We decided and the Belfast Regional Executive decided that the members would return to their homes and their jobs and resume party activity on a certain date, and we issued a public statement to that effect.  The night that they returned, one of them was shot – five bullets – by the Officials in the Andersonstown area.  So, that effectively ended the truce.

Gerry F:  What are the reasons for the escalation of the conflict since then?

Seamus C: It has escalated because the Officials chose to escalate it.  They have consistently ignored every single attempt at mediation made by people outside of both organisations.  We have consistently called for mediation and indicated our willingness to accept the various mediators who offered their services.  But the Officials refused, and this is the reason why it has got worse.

Gerry F: You said earlier that it was the policy of the Officials to physically smash the IRSP.  Do you think that is still their policy? 

Seamus C: At the moment I could not answer that question, since attempts at mediation are under way again.  A few days ago, Tomas Mac Giolla (president of the political wing of the Officials)issued a public statement calling for mediation.

This was the first declaration by any leader of the Officials that in any way indicated that they were interested in peace.  And it came four days after the attempted assassination of myself in Waterford.  There’s no doubt this caused a lot of support to be lost by the Officials.  People were very critical of it in many parts of the country.  This may have had something to do with the statement by Tomas Mac Giolla.  Since last Monday we have been in touch with mediators and it seems at the moment that there is some kind of intention to engage in peace discussions.

Gerry F: To what extent do you think the leadership of the Official IRA is in Read the rest of this entry

Fintan Lalor to Gavan Duffy on Repeal, the land question and the weaknesses of ‘moral force’

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The above statue was created to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Fintan Lalor. The inscription on the plinth says, “Ireland her own, and all therein, from the sod to the sky. The soil of Ireland for the people of Ireland”.

The following is the text of a letter by James Fintan Lalor to C. Gavan Duffy, at the start of 1847.[1]  In it Lalor provides a critique of Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal movement, emphasises the crucial importance of the land question (ie the social question) over the purely political issue of repeal of the 1803 Act of Union, and indicates the weaknesses of the ‘moral force’ argument.  Tinakill was the Lalor family home in Co. Laois.  The Lalors had to rent land which their family had once, hundreds of years earlier, held as sept land.  Indeed, the Lalors had been one of a group of septs that resisted the expansion of the Anglo-Norman conquest for 400 years and, from time to time, making incursions into the Pale.

When these septs were finally defeated by the conquerors, most of the Lalor leaders were executed or forcibly removed to Kerry.   While managing to make their way back, they did so as renters.  Nevertheless, by the standards of Catholic farmers, they were certainly well-off.  However, they kept a rebellious spirit – James’ father Patrick was a leading figure in the anti-tithe movement and the family had associations with the rural secret societies, Laois being a centre of agrarian unrest.  In 1832 Patrick’s prominent role in the unrest led to him being elected MP for Laois.  He enjoyed widespread support among the rural poor in particular although, of course, they didn’t have the right to vote.  Patrick signed up to O’Connell’s Repeal movement, causing substantial arguments with Fintan.  Indeed, Fintan was forced to leave home and subsequently lived in Dublin and Belfast.

The deterioration of his health, however, forced him back home.  But Patrick himself was to leave O’Connell’s movement, deciding that the ‘Great Liberator’ was a fraud, that O’Connell was trying to play the masses in order to enhance his own position and that fake radical rhetoric was just being used to garner mass support from the poor.

Father and son relations then improved.

Fintan Lalor’s opposition to Repeal and O’Connell was rooted in his feelings that the key focus for struggle by the mass of the Irish people should be the land question.  What was the point of exchanging an Anglo-Irish exploiting class for an indigenous one?  The contradiction between the political demand of O’Connell’s movement and the need of the masses for the basics of life was especially pronounced because even the early 1840s, before the famine, were marked by massive impoverishment and destitution.

During the famine, Fintan attempted to organise tenant societies and rent strikes.  However, his health handicapped him as an active organiser.  But he was still able to write and his articles in the Irish Felon urged armed resistance to the landlords.  The British had suspended habeas corpus in the wake of the 1848 Rising and Lalor was among those arrested and imprisoned, his health deteriorating again.  The British were forced to release him in case he died in prison.  Rather than recuperating, Fintan began renewed efforts to organise another Rising in September 1849.  By the end of the year, sadly, Lalor was dead, passing away just two days after Christmas and being buried in Glasnevin.

While being the most important thinker of the republican movement of the 1840s, Fintan never won the leadership of Young Ireland to his perspective.  He did, however, have a major impact on a number of key activists who would carry his ideas forward into the following generation of resistance; the ideas thus played an important part in both Fenianism – Lalor’s disciples being people such as Charles Kickham, John O’Leary, Thomas Luby and Devin Reilly – and, even more importantly, the Land War led by Michael Davitt, perhaps the most important of all Fintan’s disciples.

In The Separatist Idea, Pearse identified what he considered the real republican tradition in Ireland.  Lalor was one of the four great prophets of the republican gospel, said Pearse.  (The other three he listed as Tone, Davis and Mitchel.)  The founder of Irish Marxism, James Connolly, also identified James Fintan Lalor as one of the great social thinkers thrown up by the material conditions and movements of resistance in Ireland.

On a side note, his brother Peter emigrated to Australia in the early 1850s to try his luck on the Victoria goldfields.  He played a leading role in the Eureka Stockade rebellion, losing an arm in the process.  He was later elected by miners as the MP for Ballarat and served in the Victorian parliament for many years and turning down a knighthood.  Another brother became the MP for Laois and was prominent in the Land War and as a supporter of the Fenian prisoners.

Fintan Lalor’s life was fairly short (1807-1849) and he was troubled throughout it by chronic bronchitis and a crooked spine.[2]  His contribution, however, makes him a giant of the Irish revolutionary tradition, in particular the first to establish the over-riding importance of the social question within the Irish revolution.  In his day the key oppressed and exploited class was the mass of the peasantry and the key social question was ownership and control of land.  Today, the key oppressed and exploited class is the working class and the key social question is the ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange.  Lalor is thus the forerunner, indeed the most important forerunner , of Irish socialist-republicanism and Irish Marxism.

Over the coming months I intend to write an appreciation to be called James Fintan Lalor in the Irish Revolution.  My aim is to do it in both article and pamphlet form.  I also plan to get his writings up on this blog.

  • Phil F

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Tinakill, Abbeyleix
January 11, 1847

I am one of those who never joined the Repeal Association or the Repeal Movement – one of Mr O’Connell’s “creeping, crawling, cowardly creatures” – though I was a Repealer in private feeling at one time, for I can hardly say I am one now, having almost taken a hatred and disgust to this my own country and countrymen.  I did not join the agitation, because I saw – not from reflection, but from natural instinct, the same instinct that makes one shrink from eating carrion – that the leaders and their measures, means, and proceedings, were intrinsically and essentially, vile and base; as such as never either could or ought to succeed.  Before I embarked in the boat I looked at the crew and the commander; the same boat which you and others mistook in ’43 for a war-frigate, because she hoisted gaudy colours, and that her captain swore terribly; I knew her at once for a leaky collier-smack, with a craven crew to man her, and a sworn dastard and foresworn traitor at the helm – a fact which you and Young Ireland would seem never to have discovered until he ordered the boat to be stranded, and yourselves set ashore.[3]

I would Read the rest of this entry

Engels on internationalism and Irish freedom

imagesFrom Report by Engels to the May 14, 1872 meeting of the General Council of the First International:

“If members of a conquering nation called upon the nation they had conquered and continued to hold down to forget their specific nationality and position, to ‘sink national differences’ and so forth, that was not Internationalism, it was nothing else but preaching to them submission to the yoke and attempting to justify and to perpetuate the dominion of the conqueror under the cloak of Internationalism.  It was sanctioning the belief, only too common among the English working men, that they were superior beings compared to the Irish, and as much an aristocracy as the mean whites of the Slave states considered themselves to be with regard to the Negroes.

“In a case like that of the Irish, true internationalism must necessarily be based on a distinctly national organisation. . . (Irish sections of the First International) “not only were justified, but even under the necessity to state in the preamble to their rules that their first and most pressing duty, as Irishmen, was to establish their own national independence.”