Ireland & Republicanism

Ireland & Republicanism

The signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent ceasefire of the Provisional IRA after 30 years of armed struggle raises the question: after so much sacrifice and bloodshed, what has been achieved? Yet this question is being studiously avoided by the leaders of Sinn Féin, who have exchanged the armed struggle for a minister’s portfolio. Though they publicly deny it, the unification of Ireland is off the agenda. The strategy, methods and tactics of non-socialist Republicanism have ended in complete disaster.

The Irish Republican movement has been struggling for a united Ireland for decades. Yet today it is clear to all that it is no nearer this objective than when it was founded.

Marxists have always been in favour of a united Ireland, but following in the footsteps of James Connolly, we have also understood that this goal can only be achieved as part of the struggle for a socialist Ireland and a socialist Britain. It can only be achieved by class and revolutionary methods. The prior condition is to unite the working class in struggle, and this can only be achieved by a return to the revolutionary traditions and programme of Jim Larkin and James Connolly – the programme of the Workers’ Republic. So long as capitalism dominates Ireland there will be sectarian division and strife, which will undermine and destroy the movement for Irish unification.

— From Introduction to Ireland: Republicanism and Revolution

The 12 July celebrations, 'The Twelfth', are the height of the marching season in Ireland. It's a day for Protestants and Unionists in Ireland to celebrate the defeat of the Jacobite forces by the Williamites in 1690. The parade was used politically by the Orange Order and reactionary loyalist forces to show their dominance in the North, especially in Belfast, often invoking sectarian riots and violence, which plague the Twelfth. In 1913, James Connolly, Irish revolutionary, explained his thoughts on this day, its real historical basis, and what it means to the people of Ireland.

On Sunday an official state ceremony was held in Dublin to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The officials present, including the men of the Church, represent a class that did not support the Rising in 1916, but who now wish to present themselves as heirs to that heroic struggle. Here Alan Woods exposes the utter hypocrisy of these people and recalls what the Rising was really about.

At Easter every year in every parish in Ireland and in many places around the world Irish Republicans gather to pay homage to those men and women who died in the struggle for independence. This year, 2012, will be no different. However, whereas 50 years ago there was only one Republican Movement, today there are at least seven different republican traditions that have emerged out of the northern struggle.

Belfast in 1907 was a hotbed of militancy.  It was the fastest growing city in the British isles. Its most successful industries were labour intensive. 

When the Irish Catholic priest Fr. Hugh O’Donnell decided it was time to build a Catholic church in Belfast he had a problem: it costs a lot of money to build a church. The Catholic population of Belfast was too small and too poor to provide enough money, so if he had to rely on the Catholics alone it would take forever. He had to seek help elsewhere. So he asked the Protestants of Belfast to help him out. As you do.

We are reprinting this article because the arguments used by Connolly in answering the capitalists are as valid today as when they were written in 1901. Taken from the Workers’ Republic, May 1901.

We are publishing here a speech given by Phil Mitchinson at the 2005 International Marxist school in Barcelona. Dealing with the history of the centuries old struggle for freedom in Ireland, and the part played in that history by republicanism and socialism, as well as the political developments that have led to the current impasse. 

Recent weeks have seen Ireland bear witness to two factory occupations that subsequently inspired similar actions across Britain. These events are significant developments in class struggle in that they pose the question of whether power resides with the boss or the workers. It is fitting that these events should coincide with the ninetieth anniversary of the Limerick Soviet.

Despite being regarded as a central point in Irish history and an event that is widely recognised as pivotal to the traditions of republicanism little of the events of 1916 are retained in their popular representation as they have been surrounded by a systematic campaign of distortion almost since they took place.

After the Easter 1916 uprising the actual class conditions that motivated the likes of James Connolly and the trade unionists who set up the Irish Citizen's Army to battle capitalism were written out of history. Radical ideas were demonised and Connolly's Marxism was airbrushed from history.

A Speech delivered in Barcelona Wednesday August 1st 2007 to a gathering of Marxists from around the world by Gerry Ruddy, a member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party

The recent declaration by the leadership of the Provisional IRA that the armed struggle is over has been reported in the media as an historic turning point and a fundamental departure in Irish politics. In spite of the rhetoric, however, there has not been one single step in the direction of a united Ireland. At least a section of the Provisional Republican movement will now be feeling demoralised and betrayed. They and many others, especially the young people who have just started to become involved in politics, will want to know - what next?

Ireland: Republicanism and Revolution

The signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent ceasefire of the IRA after 30 years raises the question: after so much sacrifice and bloodshed, what has been achieved? Yet this question is being studiously avoided by the leaders of Sinn Fein, who have exchanged the armed struggle for the hope of a minister's portfolio. Though they publicly deny it, the unification of Ireland is off the agenda. The strategy, methods and tactics of non-socialist Republicanism have ended in complete disaster.

A remarkable document written by a Republican Socialist, Ta Power, while in gaol in Ireland in the mid-Eighties. The significance of the conclusions drawn by this young thinker and fighter, who made a careful study of Marxism whilst imprisoned, will not be lost on our readers. Above all the demand that politics and ideology must play the central role in the struggle for national liberation and socialism, in the building of a revolutionary party of the working class, will come as a surprise to many, especially knowing the period and the circumstances in which this document was written. With an introduction by Gerry Ruddy.

The election of a Labour Government in Britain has raised enormous expectations, not least by workers in Northern Ireland who are looking for a way out of the impasse they have faced for nearly a century. Yet the Labour leadership remain tied to a "bi-partisan" approach that has solved nothing in the past, and looks set to present more of the same for the future. In a short series of articles, Cain O'Mahoney examines labour's role in Northern Ireland and the lessons that must be learnt.

The partition of Ireland, following the Government Of Ireland Act in 1920, gave strength to the reactionary 'theory' that has always been perpetuated by pro-Unionist elements amongst the Northern labour movement that workers' interests were better served by maintaining the link with British capitalism.

After 1945, British imperialism had a different agenda for Northern Ireland. Ireland had been partitioned in 1920 to keep hold of the profitable industries of the North, as well as the important military bases that protected Britain's western flanks. More importantly however, Partition served to act as a break on the growing social revolution that accompanied the struggle for national liberation in Ireland, which had included land and factory seizures by the workers.

The decision by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson to send British troops into Northern Ireland in 1969 reflected that government's abandonment of any semblance of socialist policies. It was a squandered opportunity that tied the Labour leadership to the blind alley of 'bipartisanship' for the next three decades.

On 17th April 1916 the Irish Citizen Army, together with the Irish Volunteers, rose up in arms against the might of the British Empire to strike a blow for Irish freedom and for the setting up of an Irish Republic. Their blow for freedom was to reverberate round the world, and preceded the first Russian Revolution by almost a year.

Born in 1868 into a poor family in Edinburgh, James Connolly was a genuine proletarian. His working life commenced at the age of ten. All his life he lived and breathed the world of the working class, shared in its trials and tribulations, suffered from its defeats and exulted in its victories. Connolly was a self-educated man who became a brilliant speaker and writer. He alone in the annals of the British and Irish Labour Movement succeeded in developing the ideas of Marxism.

"The declaration of an unconditional ceasefire by the I.R.A. on the 31st of August represents a crushing defeat for the policy of individual terrorism. For 25 years the I.R.A. waged an armed struggle against British imperialism, with the declared aim of driving out the British army and achieving the unification of Ireland. Now, after a generation of bloody conflict, with 3,170 dead and 36,680 injured, the goal of a united Ireland is further away than ever." Ted Grant in 1994.

This article was originally published in the Militant under the title "Northern Ireland - For A United Workers' Defence Force" just after the British troops were sent into the North of Ireland in 1969. While most of the left capitulated and supported the sending in of troops the Marxists explained clearly that, "The call made for the entry of British troops will turn to vinegar in the mouths of some of the Civil Rights leaders. The troops have been sent in to impose a solution in the interest of British and Ulster Big Business."

It is impossible to understand the Easter Rising without understanding the ideas of its leader, James Connolly, who considered himself a Marxist and based himself on the ideas of Internationalism and the class struggle. (Written by Ted Grant in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the uprising.)

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