Connolly: A Marxist Analysis
Organisation: Irish Workers' Group [1976]
Authors:Andy Johnston, James Larragy, Edward McWilliams
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Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: James Connolly

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

25th April 2016

As a part of our continuing project to build a collection of documents relating to 1916 here is a further one from the Irish Workers Group from 1990. The Left Archive is very grateful to those involved in that group for compiling and forwarding this keynote work. As the person who sent it notes:

In 1990 the Irish Workers Group published a book on James Connolly. It collected a series of articles that had appeared in IWG journals in the ’80s. No-one acknowledged their existence even when later preaching about some of its ideas.

Here is the original.

IWG’s intention was to bring out an analysis for anyone putting together a revolutionary socialist current in Ireland.

While defending the 1916 Rising, it critiques the ‘socialist republican’ history and doctrine that has afflicted the best traditions in Ireland of opposition to imperialism and capitalism.

It is also appropriate to quote from the Introduction to the work.

It argues that:

Every serious attempt since 1916 to develop a socialist programme which addresses also the National Question has looked to Connolly’s legacy. His ‘socialist republicanism’, because it is ambiguous on key questions of class and nation, remains an obstacle to developing independent working class politics

And suggests that:

The purpose of this book… is to examine the roots, influences and level ped ideas of Connolly’s thought from an unashamedly Marxist standpoint. Not the “Marxism” of Greaves or of Stalinists generally, but that of the classical tradition upheld and developed by Trotsky from the mid 1920’s, when Stalin’s grip began to tighten on the neck of the October revolution and all its historic aspirations. Now that Stalinism is being ground between the upper wheel of imperialism and the nether wheel of working class revolution, as predicted by Trotsky, it is all the more relevant for Marxists to re-examine Connolly’s legacy in a clearer light.

And concludes:

After the rising, Trotsky perceptively observed that the young Irish working class, emerging against a backdrop of a burgeoning nationalism and “the egoistic, narrow-minded imperial arrogance of British trade unionism”, tended to swing between syndicalism and nationalism in search of a programme. Connolly’s central ideological struggle consisted of the attempt to render such impulses into a coherent political consciousness. The wonder is that he achieved as much as he did, given the sources and influences that shaped his ideas. We see his demise in the 1916 insurrection not as the product of a simple abandonment of his socialist career, but rather as its inescapable conclusion. Not some sudden conversion to Pearse’s nationalism but his own theoretical paradigm since as early as 1897, provides the key to the rights and wrongs of Connolly’s ultimate political sacrifice, and indeed to so much of the political legacy we have inherited from him.

A provocative and timely addition to the Archive.

More from Irish Workers' Group [1976]

Irish Workers' Group [1976] in the archive


  • Richard Brenner

    Thanks - and a correction

    By: Richard Brenner | 23rd June 2022, 4:27pm

    I was a member of workers power, the British organisation affiliated with the Irish workers group and knew Andy, Jim and Eddie fairly well if not terribly closely. However, one thing I can remember is that when I joined WP in 1984 they were still working on “the Connolly book“ and I believe it was not published until 1985 or possibly even as late as 1986. Certainly not as early as 1976. Thank you very much for publishing this.

    Reply to this comment

    • Irish Left Archive

      Re: Thanks - and a correction

      By: Irish Left Archive | 24th June 2022, 10:45am

      Thanks Richard. The reference to [1976] is actually part of the group's name on our site, to distinguish them from the previous, unrelated Irish Workers Group [1966]. Though I see that that makes the title of the page as it appears in search engines very ambiguous! We may need to add the publication date there as well.

      In this case, the date given in the document is 1990, so it seems to be later still.

      Reply to this comment

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