James Connolly and the struggle for Marxism in Ireland
Organisation: Workers Revolutionary Party
Publication: The Labour Review
Issue:Volume 4, Number 12
Collection:The British Left on Ireland
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: James Connolly

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

22nd November 2010

Many thanks to Mervyn Crawford for the following document.

The piece is taken from The Labour Review, monthly journal of the Workers Revolutionary Party. The Labour Review first existed as a fairly highly regarded, from what one can tell, theoretical journal of the Socialist Labour League, a precursor of the WRP. In the 1960s it appears to have been replaced by other publications, but the name was resurrected later by the WRP during the 1970s and 1980s. This particular document appears to date from around 1980/1981 due to references to the Iran/Iraq War.

The WRP itself was one of the more controversial further left formations in the UK,  but it’s important to note the direct connection with Ireland in the shape of its founder, Gerry Healy, who haled from Galway (indeed an interesting subject for further research might well the be influence of Irish born individuals on the shape of the UK further left and just why quite a number achieved some prominence).

The Left Archive already has a piece of documentation from the WRP itself  and the WRP linked Workers League  and an interesting analysis critiquing the involvement of the SLL/WRP in Irish Marxism from the League for a Workers’ Republic.  

As Mervyn notes ‘The essay is long enough to speak for itself’ and as a spring board for discussion of the questions it raises (it is perhaps however worth noting that the article does touch tangentially on the concerns of the WRP in relation to a number of then contemporary issues).


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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 22 Nov 2010 11:03:54

    “the neucleus of which is the international etc. “.
    the is the eternal weakness of the sects. The messiah complex. Direct line of succession from Marx, Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin or Mao. I find it bizarre that a secular belief system merges into religion. The road to a revolution and the building of a party or alliance of parties which can bring it off will/is strewn with cul de sacs and false dawns.While we can le4arn from the past and indeed there is a lot to learn we should not turn the books of the past into bibles.It is interesting that the Bolsheviks thought that there was a lot to be learned from the reformist Kautsky. If memory does not deceive me most of the references in the “ABC of Communism” are to works of Kautsky. Leave religion to the god botherers.Funnily the republican sects have a parallel mythology, the handing over of Dail powers to the army council in the late 30s by the surviving members of the revolutionary Dail who did not give in.
    I accept that aside from the method and insights the past can give us that heroism is also a legacy.
    There is much to be learned from many marxist thinkers from many traditions and none.In rereaeding this I realised that insights are not reserved for marxist thinkers alone. I have read and got a lot from many outside the grouping am most associated with. I would also accept that many in this tradition have made mistakes. In fact it is impossible to get a clear path ahead in a human world.
    The current example of this Messiah complex is the maoist Avakian, but the Trotskyist tradition has produced its share.
    If there is something I hope will arise form initiatives like the ULA is an end to some of this nonsense and the creation of a forum/athmosphere where the revolutionary left can debate and come up with answers that can clear the path ahead. We can only do this by being prepared to learn from each other.
    I definitelt do not want to hear any nonsense from any sect, big or small, thet they/s/he have the way, the truth etc.

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 22 Nov 2010 11:36:03

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    The semi-religious invocations did stand out for me too.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 22 Nov 2010 11:54:10

    This stuff borders on the unreadable. In fact, it reminds me a little of some of the CPI(ML) stuff in the archive, although lacking the entertainment value of the latter’s wild eccentricities.

    I see that one of their main criticisms of the Peoples Democracy group is PD’s refusal to go along with the WRP/ICFI’s grotesque “Security and the Fourth International” campaign, which involved smearing their rivals in the US SWP as CIA agents who had collaborated in Trotsky’s murder.

    To be fair to them, despite the turgid style and the reliance on semi-religious faith as a tool of argument, they do actually get quite close to the mark on that old buffoon Greaves.

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 22 Nov 2010 12:03:15

    In reply to Mark P.

    I’m not Greaves’ biggest fan, but it’s harsh to call him a buffoon, especially given his prominent role in the development of the civil rights strategy for NI. And the view of Connolly offered here is at least as lop-sided as anything Greaves had to offer, if not much more so.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 22 Nov 2010 12:15:10

    The slander campaign was opposeed by people like Ted Grant, which was important. Grant and Cliff were serious marxists who did not stoop to lies.
    Greaves was a major strategist behind the events setting up NICRA. He also wrote a quite interesting little book on 1916 challenging the mantra that it had little support until the executions. While disagreeing with much of Greaves, I will shock Mervyn in saying that he was far more significant than all of the WRP.
    A bit of a tangent but Greaves was a major influence on the evolution of the Official SF in the early dats and to a degree people influenced by him in say the Peoples Movement are of some significance.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 22 Nov 2010 12:16:01

    In reply to Garibaldy.

    Greaves was a Stalinist historian, in the fullest sense of that term. He was a grubby, dishonest, hack.

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  • By: Shane Coleman Mon, 22 Nov 2010 12:25:52

    In reply to franklittle.

    A bit of a wanker, Mark, was he? 🙂

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 22 Nov 2010 12:27:28

    In reply to Shane Coleman.

    Seeing as that was intended as a joke, it will be let go. But any more of the sort of thing that went on last week will just be deleted.

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  • By: Mervyn Crawford Mon, 22 Nov 2010 15:59:20

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    Now, let me think about this. ‘Sects’, ‘messiah’, ‘false dawn’, mythology’…. .
    Oh, and yes, and I nearly forgot the instruction to us all at the end ‘I defintely do not want to hear….’ . Must remember Mr Monaghan’s orders. I’ll write a thousand lines right away!
    Now. I do wonder what Mr M thinks of Nationalism generally? Nationalism in Ireland? Connoly’s position towards the nationalists? And Stalinism’s role in directing the class struggle of the twentieth and twenty first, century down the nationalist road to oblivion and sure defeat. And what might Mr Monaghan think of the dangers facing humanity from the capitalist world order?
    Sure I know – the biggest threat to humanity are ‘sects’! Not capitalism in it’s death throes. That ICBM lauch of the Californian coast meant nothing.
    No the main thing is for us all to engage in a ‘left’ love-in. And won’t everything be all right when the ‘progressives’ kiss our scraped little knees better. And tell us not to trouble our pretty little heads with principles, clarity and struggle. Those horrible sectarians! Ooh! Don’t worry about them.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 22 Nov 2010 16:14:23

    In reply to Mervyn Crawford.


    Jim, as you may be aware, was a member of the Healyite ICFI in Ireland. So he does at least speak from experience.

    You don’t even have to agree with him about various current political topics to see that he has a point about the tone and style of this article. It is pompous and messianic and really, that isn’t necessary to the points it makes.

    For instance, I think it’s mostly right about C. Desmond Greaves, but I have to say that only a pretty strong stomach for left braggadocio allowed me to get that far into the article.

    Can you clear up a couple of point about the stance of your version of the ICFI for me while you are here?

    1) Does your ICFI think that the Healy WRP was a healthy revolutionary organisation at the time when this article (1981?)? And if so, when did it in fact start to degenerate?

    2) Does your ICFI still stand over the “Security and the Fourth International” smear campaign?

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 22 Nov 2010 17:33:10

    In reply to Mervyn Crawford.

    I regard the national struggle as progressive like Connolly. Moved on a bit but still unfinished. Like Connolly I oppose the successors of Redmonds party such as FF, FG etc. I think Trotskys theory of Permanent revolution shows how the national revolution in oppressed nations and the proletarian revolution are connected.
    I make a distinction between sects like yours and groups like the SWP and SP who might display sectish behaviour but who do great work in leading the fightback. I see any chance of a revolutionary party or front coming from a synthesis of all that is best of groups like them which can transcend their limitations When I say limitations I do not mean that I or people who might agree with me have the way, the truth or any such messianic nonsense. I admire and respect the work of for example Joe Higgins. I regard the ULA as a step forward, I wish it success and hope it expands, deepens and extends to fighting for a new leadership in the unions. It could fail, such is life. If so it will be a setback and hopefully something else will emerge. There is not an apostolic line of succession, just people and groups struggling to understand what is to be done. Friendly discussion is needed to help this happen, not bombast and especially lies and slander, see my opening point.
    Oh, I spend a fair bit of time campaigning (not enough, but a bit) for neutrality and keeping Ireland out of NATO and its clones. Such is my worry about missless. It is news to me that the missle Ishould worry about is in California, I thought they were closer to home, not that it makes any difference where they are.
    I have opposed Stalinism all my political life.

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  • By: Patrick Sliney Tue, 23 Nov 2010 13:20:21

    Jim M seems to think bigger is better. Has he not learned anything from his past days tailing nationalism.Peoples Democracy were subsumed by the Sinners.Nothing changes for Jim.
    Only now its who ever is fighting.
    Program matters without it you end up with the POUM
    at best.
    As to Kautsky of course one should study him but they should also read Lenin and the Renagade Kautsky.

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Thu, 25 Nov 2010 09:46:46

    […] Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP): James Connolly and the struggle for Marxism in Ireland […]

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  • By: icnt.mx Sun, 26 Dec 2010 05:58:23

    Free Downloads for XMAS…

    Nice article, I have posted a trackback to a related article on my site. Thanks…

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  • By: Conor McCabe Sun, 24 Nov 2013 11:55:23

    I’m marking at the moment a 4th yr essay on James Connolly and they’ve referenced this web page and this document. Students are using this as a resource WBS, fair play.

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  • By: Gearóid Sun, 24 Nov 2013 12:21:13

    In reply to Conor McCabe.

    The CLR’s cited in my MA thesis, along with Splintered Sunrise.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Sun, 24 Nov 2013 12:27:49

    In reply to Conor McCabe.

    A lot of hands have participated in it including your own… love the idea that it’s being used.

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