Marxist Review, No. 3
Organisation: Revolutionary Marxist Group
Publication: Marxist Review
Issue:Number 3
Spring '73
Contributors: Info
James Conway, D. R. O'Connor Lysaght
Type:Publication Issue
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

19th July 2010

This document, very kindly donated to the Archive by Mark P and the Socialist Party, is of particular interest. We’ve already considered some material from the Revolutionary Marxist Group, but this expands upon their analysis and during a period of particular change on the further left on the island.

Just to briefly refresh memories, the Revolutionary Marxist Group was, as previously noted:

…an intriguing Trotskyist formation on the Irish left from the 1970s. Never very large it consisted of former members the League for a Workers Republic and Young Socialists.

The contents of this particular document is broad ranging, with essays on ‘The Leninist theory of Party Organisation’ by James Conway, ‘Connolly and the Revolutionary Party’ by D.R O’Connor Lysaght, ‘Class Consciousness and the Leninist Party’ by Ernest Mandel and ‘Once More - Trotsky on Ireland’ by James Conway.

Each is of specific interest in providing a sense of the discussions within the RMG and it’s position as regard other formations. The first engages with the issue of discipline, democracy, factions and so on within the context of the Leninist model of party organisation.

The second considers issues of Connolly and the revolutionary party in conjunction with a critique of the analyses of the British and Irish Communist Organisation.

The third is a reprint of an Ernest Mandel speech while the fourth also engages in part with BICO and the ICO.

Apologies for the quality of the scans. The original was printed in red ink and is very faint in parts.

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  • By: Paul Doran Mon, 19 Jul 2010 11:55:11

    FF & FG will tell you that they have 3000-4000 members , likewise Labour will tell of their grossly inflated figures, I ‘m sure if you were to look at movements in the past, Most of the revolutionary movements had low numbers, but effected great changes,It is not the numbers that count but what activity they can effect.Take the Communist party in Spain for example,they have very low numbers pre 33, but in 36/7 they had thousands.

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  • By: LeftAtTheCross Mon, 19 Jul 2010 12:03:55

    In reply to Paul Doran.

    FG claims 35,000 members:

    FF claims 75,000:

    Pinch of salt perhaps.

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  • By: Gerry Barnes Mon, 19 Jul 2010 12:21:04

    In reply to Paul Doran.

    So what great changes did RMG, the League for a Workers’ Republic and many tiny activist organisations before and since effect? The fact that they and many mentioned in the Gralton list faded into oblivion demonstrates that they effected no important changes in Irish society. That Gralton list reads like a Roll of Futility.

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  • By: Budapestkick Mon, 19 Jul 2010 12:24:29

    In reply to Paul Doran.

    FF and FG have far higher memberships than 3,000/4,000. They’d need five times that just to run in as many constituencies as they do.

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  • By: Budapestkick Mon, 19 Jul 2010 12:37:04

    In reply to Budapestkick.

    ‘So what great changes did RMG, the League for a Workers’ Republic and many tiny activist organisations before and since effect? ‘

    None, but the point is that they obviously thought they could become far larger. It’s important to keep in mind that the (relatively) larger far left outlets like SP, TWAG, SWP etc. would have started out with only a handful of members but were able to build into something a bit more significant. I think it’s also important to remember that relatively small groups can be important in particular movements or struggles, for example the Militant in the Liverpool struggle and anti-poll tax movements, the SWP in the anti-war movement, the SP in GAMA and the anti-water charges campaign, the American Communist League in the Minneapolis Teamsters Strikes etc.

    Obviously the main factor is that each group sees itself as the vanguard of a future revolution, it’s the organisations that balance that belief with a programme and an orientation to the real struggles of ordinary people that go beyond being mere sects.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 19 Jul 2010 17:17:13

    In reply to Gerry Barnes.

    A lot of organisations never manage a membership over 25. Some of them because they are crazy or incompetent, others because they were unlucky, most because they were swimming against the tide in terms of historical circumstance.

    The RMG probably did attain a membership of more than 25 (no doubt Jim can tell us) but not a vast amount more. It later merged with the remnants of People’s Democracy to form the now microscopic Socialist Democracy. Despite the hard times on which they’ve fallen, it has to be said that People’s Democracy did at one point make a real impact on real world politics.

    As far as the content of the document goes, it’s not a bad magazine once you get past the dodgy production values. There’s lots of it I disagree with, and it’s a bit jargon-heavy, but there’s some thought behind some of the articles.

    (By the way, Wbs, I strongly suspect that I gave you the above the document rather than Jim – I’m not saying that to look for credit but because I’ll need to get it back off you eventually so I can return it to the SP office!)

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 19 Jul 2010 17:20:24

    In reply to Mark P.

    Ooops, I think you’re right. Apologies. I’ll edit above to make sure there’s a credit and we’ll have to meet up sometime for me to give it back to you.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 19 Jul 2010 17:33:02

    In reply to Mark P.

    No rush.

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  • By: John O'Neill Tue, 20 Jul 2010 10:01:41

    “‘So what great changes did RMG, the League for a Workers’ Republic and many tiny activist organisations before and since effect? ‘


    Thats a bit too negative for me. Supposing I read the above or Mark P read it and decided that we agreed with the content and this was the ‘spark’ that helped persuaded us to get involved in socialist politics? We may not have joined the RMG but the document made us consider activism. Why do you think left organisations place such an emphasis on producing literature? I also think that socialists read literature from the broad left to understand and sometimes criticise positions at odds with their own but there is also the possibility that their understanding can be influenced by alternative analysis.

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  • By: Starkadder Tue, 20 Jul 2010 20:47:31

    I remember this RMG magazine…they did a special feminist
    issue later, which featured articles on Germaine Greer and
    Wilhelm Reich.

    Didn’t one of RMG’s activists end up working at RTE?

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  • By: Budapestkick Tue, 20 Jul 2010 22:20:37

    In reply to John O’Neill.

    I was perhaps being a bit too negative, though if you look at the rest of my post I don’t think I was being especially negative, quite positive and balanced in fact. I understand why socialist organisations place a lot of emphasis on literature, being an SP activist myself. However, I don’t really think this particular document would have that effect, being as it isn’t really aimed at the public in the same sense that Look Left, the Socialist, the SWP paper etc. would be. However, I stand by comment that small sects along the lines of the IWG etc. haven’t made a significant impact, aside from the off chance that they may or may not have made people consider activism.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Tue, 20 Jul 2010 23:26:38

    In reply to Budapestkick.

    I know precisely what you mean. i guess internal education for cohesiveness is necessary – no? And probably more so in smaller organisations. I’m not sure where Jim is but he’d be the man to tell us.

    I take your point about small organisations (I’m not a fan of the word ‘sects’ 🙂 ), but look at how people like Carol Coulter et al came from tiny groups and that clearly radicalised them… so it’s not all a disaster.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Tue, 20 Jul 2010 23:27:02

    In reply to Starkadder.

    Which one? I’m genuinely curious.

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  • By: NollaigO Wed, 21 Jul 2010 00:04:12

    More than one.
    A female and a male.
    They also had a supporter who became mayor of Limerick.

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  • By: Budapestkick Wed, 21 Jul 2010 00:32:29

    In reply to Budapestkick.

    I never said disaster, I said never made a signficant impact. I wouldn’t characterise radicalising two or three significant people as much of an achievement. I take your point about internal cohesiveness and I assume the group had a seperate organ for interventions.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 21 Jul 2010 07:01:16

    In reply to Budapestkick.

    Ah no, I didn’t mean to say you said it was a disaster. The dangers of commenting at 1am.You’re right of course that many of these groups did relatively little or achieved relatively little, and no doubt some of the activity was a waste of time but in a context of low radicalisation generally something above the ordinary is no small thing. Like yourself I’d love people to gravitate into larger entities, but that doesn’t appear to be the way of it, so one makes do with what one can.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Wed, 21 Jul 2010 10:16:15

    I, perhaps, also, gave you the journal.
    Size of RMG;
    Dublin about 15 vto 20,
    Limerick max of say 5. They published the Bottom Dog there.
    Belfast about 5.
    Influence. Let history judge. Small groups with the right politics and the right time can do things and influence events. EG the attempt by the state to hang the Murrays. With a civil liberties approach I think the RMG helped bring the anti hanging campâign out of a self imposed ghetto.Merged with PD we played an important role in the H Block struggle, the SF outflanked us with a turn to the left, since reversed, in my opinion. But such is life.
    2 were in RTE. 1 is an SIPTU official. I am retired.
    I was a dissident and sceptical about what I regared as ultraleftism. I never thought that the Provos could succeed.
    Main theorist was Brendan who wrote as Conway. I am reluctant to give explicit names as I beleive people may now want privacy.

    Oh the Contraception Action campaign and other equality campaigns were initiated by the RMG.

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  • By: Starkadder Wed, 21 Jul 2010 18:43:29

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    I think Betty Purcell in RTE was a RMG member at one
    stage. I don’t know any other RMG members except
    D.R. O’Connor Lysaght.

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Thu, 22 Jul 2010 13:41:37

    […] and Orders: The Belfast ‘Curfew’ of 3-5 July 1970 (1970) * Revolutionary Marxist Group (RMG): Marxist Review, Frühjahr 1973 * David Bleakley: Crisis in Ireland (1974) * Irish Socialist Network: Parting Company: Ending […]

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  • By: Left Archive: Socialist Republic (incorporating The Plough), Paper of the Revolutionary Marxist Group No. 1 c.1975 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution Mon, 16 Jul 2012 02:36:12

    […] documents in the Archive from the RMG include this and this and we have quite a number of other documents scanned and ready to post up. Share […]

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