Category Archives: Wolfe Tone

Connolly’s view on the defeat of the clans

These are my notes on Connolly’s Labour in Irish History, chapt 8.

The defeat of 1641, according to Connolly, ended the old clan system. The involvement if old Anglo-Irish noblemen, he says, weakened the Irish side as they mainly wanted to maintain their own class position, in turn based on earlier confiscations. These contradictions meant they were riddled with equivocation and treachery. This movement of clans was huge and powerful, but had this fatal weakness: its own class divisions (like the Republican Movement in the Tan War period, I might add.)

With the destruction of clan society came a mixture of feudalism and capitalism, says Connolly.

He is very insightful about how the Protestant landed gentry and capitalists used more fanatically Protestant types to drive down the Catholic masses while, at the same time, exploiting the Protestant lower orders. (This is what later came to be in a really concentrated form, of course, in the six counties statelet.)

Incipient Irish capitalism was stymied by British rule, as the British capitalists did not want competition. But it reproduced opposition in Ireland over and over.

Once the economic reason ceased to drive Irish landlords and capitalists into opposition the upper elements ceased championing independence. Meanwhile, common suffering opened the way to the unity of Protestant and Catholic masses, argues Connolly.

The United Irish movement, he notes, represented the coming together of a series of developments in Irish society, an exceptional person (Tone) – or generation! – and a galvanising event (the French revolution).

Connolly notes how the French revolution changed the consciousness of both Catholics and Protestants, helping bring them together. Tensions between Catholics and Protestants gave way to conflict between the ruling class and a new force, which Connolly class “the democracy”. He reflects that Tone was waging a class war. It is very important to grasp that class war was key.

Moreover, United Irish and the English could only unite when Ireland was independent (a point very reminiscent of what Engels said.)

Connolly recorded that the aristocracy was “anti-freedom”, the Irish fight was part of a global struggle and that Irish fighters were allied with British revolutionaries. (Of course, today it is quite hard to find these today!) The Irish struggle represented what in those days were called “the rights of man” in Ireland.

Tone had asserted that when the aristocracy go forward, the people fall backward, and we might say that when the Irish capitalist class today run things, the masses (in particular, the working class, goes backwards).

Connolly records the celebrations in Belfast over the fall of the Bastille.

Lastly, in this chapter, he records that Tone was combining the national and the socio-economic. He was for making a revolution.

James Connolly on Wolfe Tone

The following article by Connolly appeared in Workers Republic (August 13, 1898); this was the paper of the Irish Socialist Republican Party, which Connolly had established in Dublin in 1896.  The transcribing is by the James Connolly Society in 1997.  The piece is taken from the Marxist Internet Archive.

Apostles of Freedom are ever idolised when dead, but crucified when living. Universally true as this statement is, it applies with more than usual point to the revolutionary hero in whose memory the Irish people will, on Monday, 15th August, lay the foundation stone of a great memorial.

Accustomed, as we are, to accept without question the statements of platform oratory or political journalism as embodying the veriest truths of history, the real meaning and significance of the life and struggles of the high-soured organiser of the United Irish movement of 1798 is too often lost to the people of Ireland today. We think with pride and joy of Wolfe Tone and his struggle for Ireland, but when we think of his enemies, of those who thwarted him at every opportunity, who ceased not to revile him while alive and paused not in their calumnies even when he had passed beyond the grave, we are too apt to forget that the most virulent and unforgiving of those enemies were not the emissaries of the British Crown, but the men from whose lips the cant of Read the rest of this entry

Connolly’s ‘Labour in Irish History’: study/discussion group

A study/discussion group based on Connolly’s Labour in Irish History started a couple of weeks ago.  With the lockdown across Ireland (and in other countries where socialist-republicans and supporters reside) many of us will have more time than we usually do for study, theory, political discussion, so let’s make use of it.

The studies have been initiated by Eirigi general-secretary Mickey Moran, but are open to any socialist-republican-minded people.  They take place on zoom and are very easy to access.  You can contact Mickey directly or, if you are shy, email me and I’ll put him onto you.  He’s:

The sessions take place on Wednesday nights at 8.30 (Irish time, and British time).  If you’re elsewhere you will need to check what time that is wherever you are.

Last week we delved into two chapters where our political tradition begins to emerge, looking at the democratic and internationalist ideas of the United Irish movement of Wolfe Tone and at Emmet’s movement and the manifesto of the 1803 rebellion, which, if anything, was even more radical – for instance Emmet’s rebellion wanted to confiscate and nationalise Church property.

It was my privilege to do the introduction.

The next 2 chapters will be introduced by Fiona, as the sessions begin to move on from the great revolutionary democracy of the United Irishmen and Emmet, pre-runners of socialism, to the emergence of a more explicitly socialist politics in Ireland.  These chapters are:

Chapter 10 – The First Irish Socialist – A forerunner of Marx; this looks at the views and work of William Thompson in the late 1820s and early 1830s
Chapter 11 – An Irish Utopia; this looks at the Ralahine commune in Co. Clare in the 1830s

Anyone who doesn’t have a copy of the pamphlet/book can read it on the Marxist Internet Archive, here.

United Wolfe Tone Commemoration: Time for hope – time for radical change.

pics and words by Mick Healy

The Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum held their first commemoration at the grave of Theobald Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare, on Sunday, 20 August 2017.  The gathering attracted a large crowd of socialist-republicans, communists, trade unionists, and women’s and community groups who marched from the village of Sallins to Bodenstown graveyard. The march was led by a colour party from the 1916 Societies, followed by a large banner declaring “Break the Connection with Imperialism” carried by members of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum.

Colourful banners and flags from socialist-republican group Eirigi and the Communist Party of Ireland, along with rousing tunes from a republican flute band, lifted the spirits as the marchers made their way, in very wet conditions, to the monument in Bodenstown Churchyard.

The main oration was delivered by John Douglas of Mandate trade union.

Wreaths were laid by Eirigi, the International Brigades society, trade unionist Mick O’Reilly on behalf of Dublin Trades Council, the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, Mandate trade union, the Communist Party of Ireland, 1916 Societies and many other organisations. The Internationale were sung and the clenched fist salute was given.

20 August, 2017, could be a historic date bringing together socialist-republicans, communists and trade unionists for the first time at Bodenstown in decades. The large contingent of young people evident at this event shows the continuing growth of left-wing republicanism that hopefully can be harnessed in the future for anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist projects.


Critiquing the construction of ‘dissident republicans’, pt 1: Intro and ‘The Eternal Flame’

The following is the opening section of a recently-completed masters degree in Ireland which looks at how the term ‘dissident republicans’ has been constructed to serve ideological ends.  In particular, the term frames those placed in the category to be simply ‘unreasonable’ and ‘violent’ people opposed to the ‘Northern Ireland ‘peace process’ being developed by supposedly ‘moderate’ and ‘reasonable’ people.  It suggests that the Provisionals, who have abandoned all their old republican principles, actually remain republican and those who disagree with their new course are ‘dissident republicans’ rather than simply people who continue to adhere to republican principles.  Below is the introduction and pt 1.  Over the coming few days, I’ll be sticking up pts 2, 3 and 4.

Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763-1798, principal founder of Irish republicanism

Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763-1798, principal founder of Irish republicanism

by Lawrence Hughes


This work offers what is considered to be a much needed alternative assessment of how traditional Irish republicans have come to occupy the position of political isolation and unpopularity as perceived dissidents. It argues that it is in fact Sinn Fein under the leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness who over a very long period of time deliberately steered the Provisional republican movement onto an irreversible path from insurrection to constitutionalism and the acceptance of partition. It was the Sinn Fein leadership and not traditional republicans who deviated from republican ideology and values and they who slaughtered every republican sacred cow whilst doing so. This work does not dwell upon the political realities of 2013 nor the merits or otherwise of Sinn Fein tactical and pragmatic politics. Nor does it dwell on the fact that traditional republicans seem determined to live their political lives in the realities of a century ago. What this work sets out to show is that within the much vaunted ‘republican family’ it was Sinn Fein under the leadership of Adams and McGuinness which diverted from republican political dogma and values and not those who today are dismissed out of hand with the mere word, dissident.

It has been felt necessary to give a brief reminder of the historical background to Irish republicanism as we know it in Ireland today. The present generation has grown up with the ‘peace process’ as the last generation grew up with ‘the troubles’ and violence. It has therefore been felt necessary to devote chapter one to the historical background of Irish republicanism and how republicans claim to be the defenders of the 1918 electoral mandate and of the first Dail of 1919 and the subsequent relevance and importance of abstentionism within the republican movement. Whilst this has left chapter one largely historical in nature, it has been felt necessary due to the somewhat Orwellian nature of Northern Ireland politics and media control since the beginning of the peace process and the signing of Good Friday Agreement. It seems there is a deliberate political and media policy of disinterest and blanket exclusion against anything which hasn’t been peace process sycophantism. This has rendered political analysis and debate endangered species. The subsequent chapters show how the Sinn Fein leadership managed to steer the movement onto a post 1981 hunger-strikes path towards constitutionalism in the guise of a pan nationalist front and examine how they avoided internal splits or feuds whilst doing so. It will be seen that rather than recruiting nationalists to the republican cause the Sinn Fein leadership was willingly pulled into the political establishments on both sides of the border, accepting partition and IRA disarmament. It will also be shown that this position was the desired destination from both the Sinn Fein leadership and the British government. Sinn Fein have ultimately, it will be seen, with a compliant and unquestioning media assistance, claimed credit for a political agreement they had almost zero part in formulating and have championed the ‘peace-process’ as the only political game in town in the absence of any coherent political strategy of its own.

Traditional republicans who have remained steadfast and true to their ideals, were to be Read the rest of this entry

Gay marriage referendum

I’ve written a feature-length article about this for another blog.  Because it’s written for a mainly non-Irish audience, it explains things that wouldn’t need explaining to Irish readers, but hopefully is still well worth a read by this blog’s readership.

You can find it at:



Who fears to speak of ’98? meeting, Dublin, Nov 9


I wish people would ensure posters are proof-read (*led* not lead – twice!), but this looks like a great meeting.  I hope it goes really well.