3rd December 2014
The overview of the Irish Workers’ Group from the Irish Left Open History Project (available here) received a number of corrections and comments from former members when it was originally published. These are reproduced in part here (the original and complete comments can be read on the Irish Left Review website ).
It is unlikely that any debate can now be raised on the issues of conflict between the groups of those times, though many questions of Irish left traditions, social formation and economy might be important. Revolutionary history, even only at a primitive documentary level, is important.
However there are a few errors in the published article which may be set to rights without much controversy.
The article says:
… In 1977 the IWG produced Class Struggle, a theoretical journal of which twenty issues were produced over the next ten years. …
The Irish Workers Group (IWG) was formed sometime around the end of 1975 …
Class Struggle continued to be published until the 1990s.
In 1987 the IWG re-launched Class Struggle as ‘a fighting paper’, with an expanded analysis of its members’ expulsions from the SWM, The article is reproduced in full below.
The IWG was formed at the end of 1976. It published 20 issues of Class Struggle magazine in A4 format, then from 1987 25 issues of Class Struggle as a ‘fighting’ paper in A3 format. Then, the A4 journal Class Struggle was resumed for nos. 21 to 24. No. 21 was a ‘special’ dedicated to the SWP tradition in Ireland and includes a brief history of Irish Trotskyism.
A read through the pages of Class Struggle gives one the impression that the entire Irish left – with the notable exception of the IWG and Provisional IRA rank-and-file members – were false Marxists or reformists, and as such had to be challenged lest they lead the masses astray.
The IWG never argued that the rank-and-file of the IRA were possibly Marxist or that they were beyond the general critique cited. If there is any such inference in the documents it was certainly not intended.
…and members included Andy Johnston, Eddie McWilliams, Jim Larragy, Siobhán Molloy, Brian Parsons and Matt Doherty.
The list of names is wrong. Brian Parsons was never in the IWG. Matt Doherty/Docherty was a pseudonym for Jim Larragy. Siobhán was active in the ‘Opposition Group’ but remained only briefly with the IWG.
In 1977 it aligned itself to the Socialist Labour Party, but the relationship did not last long
The group joined the SLP and won the right in the SLP for tendencies to openly declare themselves, which IWG did. Furthermore, it formed the broader tendency Workers Alliance for Action, which published several numbers of its bulletin Spark. The SLP leaders expelled leading IWG members in the spring of 1979 (See CS5).
The SWM failed to oppose the sending in of troops in 1969.
The SWM was not formed in 1969 when the International Socialists, in Britain, ‘failed to oppose the sending in of troops in 1969’. This is what the historical IWG article says in 1987, as you correctly reproduce. Three years later, the IS group won the SWM to their politics.
From its beginning, IWG had fraternal relations with the Workers Power (WP) group in the UK, and jointly with them it published The Degenerated Revolution and The Death Agony of the Fourth International (ISBN 0 9508133 1 1) and launched the Movement for a Revolutionary Communist International (MRCI) which later became the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI) which published The Trotskyist Manifesto.
I am an ex-member of the Irish Workers Group who retired from political activity in the mid 1990s.
In the article it is stated that “A read through the pages of Class Struggle gives one the impression that the entire Irish left … were false Marxists or reformists, and as such had to be challenged lest they lead the masses astray”.
The IWG, in the light of widespread failure by the left, considered it necessary to conduct theoretical activity as a guide to action. This was particularly true of the Connolly work in Ireland and the work internationally on the USSR and the 4th International. IWG saw Marxism as a theoretical guide to action. It saw Marxist theory as a way to arm the revolutionary movement in developing its programme, clarifying perspectives and in its polemics with other far left organisations. IWG had major differences with the political tradition of other left groups and these would often be aired in public and in print, sometimes sharply.
Despite its tiny resources, IWG involved itself in mass activity constantly. It involved itself in the SLP, in apprentice and student activities, in trade union activities and campaigns, in Republican campaigns, in the Clinics campaign, in the Dublin Abortion Information Campaign, Repeal the Eight Amendment Campaign, international solidarity work, and so on.
A small organisation with limited resources in a position approaching siege conditions within the labour movement was inevitably going to find it very difficult to survive. IWG suffered as a result. Committing resources to these challenges diminished the number of members.
In sum, the IWG’s core aim was to represent the most consistently principled inheritor of the revolutionary tradition. It made a good fist of this.
I salute your serious efforts to explore the ideas and involvement in political activity of left groups.
From The Irish Left Open History Project
The Irish Workers Group (IWG) was formed sometime around the end of 1975 following a series of expulsions that year from the Socialist Workers Movement (SWM). In 1977 the IWG produced Class Struggle, a theoretical journal of which twenty issues were produced over the next ten years.