Category Archives: Social conditions

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: eirigigeneralsecretary@gmail.com

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.

SD on the Dublin rump government and its economic survival plan

An interesting article, although I think the comrades might be somewhat optimistic about the level of class struggle they think will follow the pandemic.

by Socialist Democracy

When the Dublin government announced financial measures in response to the Covid 19 pandemic a local satirical e-zine, Waterford Whisper News, had a field day. The right wing Fine Gael government had gone communist. The country was now a Soviet. Ireland should be done with it and imprint a hammer and sickle within the tricolour.

There was reason for the satire. Many of the major issues of Irish society, claimed by the government to be insoluble because of the lack of a money tree, disappeared overnight. An army of homeless were ushered into empty hotels. For the first time in its history the Irish state conjured up a national health service by renting the large private sector. Individual payments to workers were ushered in and then increased when they proved insufficient. In the background a State that constantly misses all environmental targets and has no serious plan to deal with climate change suddenly saw the skies clear above the entire island.

Of course the Irish Soviet is a figment of the satirical imagination. Most government expenditure is directed towards the bosses. Payments to workers are in part an attempt to maintain the structures of production to speed eventual recovery. With this said, there are substantial funds assigned to ensure social peace, especially as the recent elections had demonstrated just how unpopular the leading capitalist parties are.

This is a rump government, the struggle to establish a new one is ongoing, and the issues that brought it down are the issues that it is now trying to temporarily resolve: a massive housing crisis, a health service in a shambles and large sections of the population under wage and pension pressures. The problem with their resolution is twofold. Firstly, how do you row back on the temporary concessions made today? Secondly, how do you present the bill for the extra expenditure to a working class still paying for the 2008 banking bailout?

The rump government has shaken off the shock of the. . . continue reading article on the SD site

Veteran activist Diarmuid Breatnach on the Save Moore Street Campaign

Interview by Mick Healy with Diarmuid Breathnach on the Save Moore Street Campaign.

 

Mick also did an earlier interview with Diarmuid on his decades of political activism:

 

 

Ireland’s Marxist guerrillas: the story of the Saor Éire Action Group, 1967-73

by Mick Healy, in collaboration with several former Saor Eire members

(Mick wrote an article about Saor Eire which appeared on this site in 2011;  this is an updated and expanded version of that article, including new material added by former Saor Eire members; the article has been proofed and edited by me – PF)

The 1960s was a time of upheaval and change in conservative Irish society; social attitudes, fashion and music, for instance, all changed dramatically. New social movements reflected the thinking of a new generation that, in particular, wanted more freedom. The huge student-worker protests of May-June 1968 in France, the Vietnamese struggle to remove the US States, its allies and their Vietnamese toadies, the US civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, and the national liberation struggles in Latin America and Africa galvanised opposition to the existing order. In Ireland, these events inspired people, especially the new generation, into action. This was especially the case around the civil rights movement in the north of Ireland. Among the new organisations which emerged here as a result of this new ferment and revolutionary idealism was the Dublin-based Saor Éire (SE) or, to give it its full name, the Saor Eire Action Group.

Saor Éire Action Group was established in the late 1960s by former members of the Republican Movement and newer young Irish political left activists coming together. As an organisation they claimed to have their roots in the Read the rest of this entry

Interview with veteran Irish working class and Marxist activist Kevin Keating

This is an interview that Mick did recently with Kevin Keating, a veteran activist in Dublin.  Kevin’s many years of activism go from the IRA to the fused People’s Democracy (merger of the original northern-based PD and the southern-based Movement for a Socialist Republic), which became Socialist Democracy in the later 1990s.

Kevin has very serious health problems these days.  Happily, this was one of his better days.

 

See also the interview with John McAnulty of SD.  John was a leading figure in People’s Democracy in Belfast over decades.  Mick spoke to him last October about the experience of 50 years of struggle.  See here.

Southern Irish election: Sinn Fein takes the lead

I wrote an article on the elections just after I saw the exit polls, then updated it earlier this morning (NZ time; Sunday night, Irish time).

by Philip Ferguson

With almost all the votes now counted, Sinn Fein looks like being the big winner in Saturday’s election in the south of Ireland.

Exit polls showed a three-way virtual tie between the main parties in the south of Ireland. Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael were all on just over 22% of first preferences: FG on 22.4, SF on 22.3, FF on 22.2.  These polls indicated that almost 32% of 18-24 year-olds voted Sinn Fein.

But now, with 96% of the votes cast, SF is sitting on 24.1% of first preferences and both FF and FG are on 22.1%.  For the first time

SF didn’t expect to do so well, especially after suffering substantial losses in the Euro and local government elections last year, so ran a limited number of candidates – it looks like it will get less seats than it could have gotten if it had’ve aimed for two seats in more constituencies.  At the same time, its surpluses have transferred significantly to two Trotskyist parties, helping them keep their seats. . .

See full article at: Sinn Fein takes the lead

Protest Poem

Over 750,000 people are currently living in poverty in the South; the total population in the South is about 4.8 million

 

The poem below was read by its writer, Valerie Bryce, at the open mic night at The Cottage Bar in Letterkenny, on January 28.

 

PROTEST POEM

‘There but for the grace of God’, they say
‘Did you see on the news the aul woman in Dublin
Eating left over chips from a windowsill
And her living rough on the street and worse still
She’d dementia
God love her ‘tis awful, isn’t it?’.

‘It’s a national scandal’, they say
‘Having hundreds of patients waiting on trolleys
Sometimes for days
Pyjamas and drips all on public display
‘Tis inhumane’.

‘We’ve a right to the truth’ they’ll protest
When billions of public funds remain unaccounted for
And there’s no arrests
When facts about institutional abuse are withheld
To keep us in the dark and that tongues cannot tell
Of the manner in which Church and State are complicit
In protecting abusers
Making victims lives hell.

It’s a sure sign of madness, I say
To repeat the same thing again and again
Expecting a Read the rest of this entry

Éirígí – for a New Republic: New Year Statement

Released January 1, 2020:

Today marks the dawning of not only a new year, but also a new decade.  The last ten years have been largely defined by the response of the Irish and British political establishments to the collapse of the private banking sector in 2008.

Both states chose to reward the malpractice and criminality of the private banks with unlimited political and financial support.  The cost of this support was transferred to the people at large in the form of vast public debts and the savage austerity programmes that were implemented on both sides of Britain’s border in Ireland.

Éirígí activists were heavily involved in the fight against the bank bailouts and austerity.  We take this opportunity to recognise and applaud the significant contribution that current and former party members made in these critical battles to defend the interests of the Irish people.

We also take this opportunity to thank all of those who have supported the party over the last decade,  by attending party events, through financial donations and by entrusting our election candidates with their votes.

The decision of the Dublin government to bail out the private banks in 2008 exposed the underlying ideology that has informed all important decision-making by all Dublin governments since the foundation of the state.  When faced with choosing between protecting the interests of capital or protecting the interests of the Nation, they have always chosen the former, at great cost to the latter.

Decades of blind, unquestioning, fanatical commitment to the concepts of private property, private capital and private markets has Read the rest of this entry

1916 Comdt-General Sean McLoughlin on Civil War: “How the Republicans May Win”

Anti-Treaty IRA members in Dublin

The article below first appeared in the July 29, 1922 issue of The Workers Republic, the paper of the newly-established Communist Party of Ireland.  The civil war had begun just a month earlier.  The CPI aligned with the anti-Treaty IRA and agitated for it to adopt a social programme pointing to a workers’ republic, not just a republic. 

Sean McLoughlin was actually the senior surviving commandant of the Easter Rising of 1916.  On the Friday evening, as the Rising was drawing to a close, the 21-year-old 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.

McLoughlin later worked closely with Roddy Connolly in founding the original, short-lived CPI and was active in workers’ struggles during the civil war, including workplace occupations and the formation of soviets.

I have broken up some of the longer original paragraphs.  Also the article referred to both the Labour Party and labour (the working class with capital ‘L’; I have put the latter in lower case to differentiate them.

On the political side, it should be noted that the true perfidy of the Irish Labour Party was not grasped yet, although they had gone along with the Treaty – something which should have given the game away.  But a section of revolutionaries still saw them as being a party which Connolly had helped found and this produced illusions.

The text I used is taken from the appendices to Charlie McGuire’s Sean McLoughlin: Ireland’s Forgotten Revolutionary (London: Merlin, 2011).

HOW THE REPUBLICANS MAY WIN

by Sean McLoughlin

The Republicans have only one object, a purely sentimental one, as far as the masses are concerned – the establishing of a Republic, separated completely from Britain.  This is supported by the Communists and the advanced labour elements, in so far as it is a revolutionary step, in helping to smash British imperialism, but the masses are not swayed by these questions of high politics.  They are moved by economic pressures, and will not respond to sentimental appeals, no matter how impassioned they may be,  And the masses are correct.

In the first place they are tired of war.  In the second, they see that, no matter who wins, they will still be slaves grinding out their lives for wages and ruled with a rod of iron by bosses and landlords, and they cannot summon up enthusiasm enough to enable them to fight on behalf of wage-slavery.

The Republicans Read the rest of this entry

James Connolly on urban landlords

Land ownership was a key political question for the Irish masses throughout the hundreds of years of British rule.  For most of these centuries ‘the land question’ was essentially a rural/peasant issue.  But with industrialisation and urbanisation, the landlord class in towns and cities became as much a problem for the new working class as the big landholders were for the rural peasant masses.  In this 1899 article, James Connolly addresses the problems faced by Dublin workers due to private ownership by landlords of their homes.  (It appeared in the Workers Republic, November 18, 1899) and is highly relevant today as, although housing conditions have improved, rents and ownership remain critical problems.)

In an early issue of the Workers’ Republic we pointed out that the Corporation of Dublin had it in its power to sensibly mitigate the sufferings of the industrial population in the City by a wise and intelligent application of its many powers as a public board. Among the various directions we enumerated as immediately practical outlets for corporate enterprise, there were two allied measures which, were they applied, might do much to at once relieve the most odious and directly pressing evils arising from the congested state of our cities. Those two measures were:–

  • Taxation of unlet houses,

and

  • Erection at public expense of Artisans’ Dwellings, to be let at a rent covering cost of construction and maintenance alone. [1]

The wisdom of the proposal to increase the funds and utilise the borrowing powers of the Corporation in this manner cannot be questioned. The housing accommodation of the Dublin workers is a disgrace to the City; high rents and vile sanitary arrangements are the rule, and no one in the Corporation seems to possess courage enough to avow the truth, or to face Read the rest of this entry