Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Ireland with Declaration of Principles
Organisation: Socialist Party of Ireland [1949]
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

11th April 2011

This is an important document, donated to the Archive by the SPGB - for which many thanks. Dating from the 1940s [though this document may be a reprint from 1962] it clearly lays out the Socialist Party of Ireland (not to be confused with these later formations) objectives. This indeed is made explicit in the ‘Object’ from the frontispiece:

The establishment of a society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

The SPGB is represented by this document here and the accompanying text gives some indication of the remarkable history of that formation.

The SPI, as the Preface to the Manifesto makes clear was founded in May 1949 by ‘a number of workers representing Socialist Groups in Dublin and Belfast’ who ‘met in Belfast and decided that the Groups should coalesce and form the SPI. That decision was subsequently ratified by the members of the Dublin and Belfast Groups; and so was born the first political party in Ireland to publicly and unequivocally declare its object to be the establishment of Socialism.’

There are some contemporary echoes. The first part of the pamphlet excoriates the Irish Labour Party participation in Government.

‘Nor can the Labour Party claim here that they are not free agents - that they are merely “in office but not in power”.

And it continues later…

Labour Party government has effected no change in working class conditions for the better in any country.

Likewise the document lambastes the Northern Ireland Labour Party for being ‘programmatically at one with the British Labour Party’. It continues ‘In the past the NIL Party tried to maintain its equilibrium by barring from discussion ‘the Border question’. The very fact that it was necessary to mollify opposing faction on this question amply illustrates that, despite its claims, this movement was not Socialist. Socialists see the Border as a child of capitalism and leave its nursing to parties representative of the sectional interests of the capitalist class.’

There’s a fascinating analysis of Vocationalism in the South and the ‘brand of Corporatism [which] has been finding increasing favour among the many aspirants for political power ‘down south’. And the document is very clear on the issue of Partition which it appears to regard as a chimera and where it asks…

Why should we, for example, at the cost of alienating one section of our own class, make common front with reactionary Nationalist elements, the native petty-bourgeoisie, the landed gentry, the ex-Imperialists and Fascists, who’d prefer a dog - of any nationality - to an Irish socialist? Why help t change a flag and leave the old enemy, capitalism, with its poverty and exploitation and class-border? Why should Socialists assist a clique that even now are eager to speculate with the blood of Irish workers in the markets of international catastrophe?

And it is worth considering the Declaration of Principles which is printed at the end of the document.

Again, many thanks to those who donated this document to the Archive.


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  • By: Mark P Mon, 11 Apr 2011 13:04:52

    That’s very interesting.

    I’d never realised that there were actually four different organisations which used the name Socialist Party at some point over the 20th Century. Connolly’s Socialist Party of Ireland at the beginning of the century, an “impossibilist” party in the middle of the century, a Stalinist party in the 1970s and a Trotskyist party in the 1990s.

    I also hadn’t realised that the, now nearly extinct, impossibilist tradition had such a long presence in Ireland. Can anyone tell me if this SPI (1949) evolved into the World Socialist Party of Ireland, or if the latter represented a new party building attempt after the disappearance of the first?

    I note that this SPI faithfully incorporated their mother party’s hilarious “hostility clause”.

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  • By: Ciarán Mon, 11 Apr 2011 14:38:22

    and so was born the first political party in Ireland to publicly and unequivocally declare its object to be the establishment of Socialism

    Really, not the ISRP or the first SPI? (Not to mention the two CPIs that had existed by 1949.) I guess with the 1949 SPI’s connection to the SPGB, the role of James Connolly (“Traitor to Socialism” and “bigoted traitor to the international working class”) in the earlier organisations probably nullified their socialism in eyes of the SPI.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 11 Apr 2011 15:01:20

    In reply to Ciarán.

    Yes, the key word in that sentence from an impossibilist perspective is “unequivocally”. Any party which supports any reform of capitalism is in their eyes not unequivocally in favour of socialism.

    It gets more amusing when you remember that there are two organisations claiming to be the Socialist Party of Great Britain and that they apply their “hostility clause” to each other too.

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  • By: shane Mon, 11 Apr 2011 17:24:48

    I have the 1943 vocational report it refers to. It really is a glorious feast. It gives a VERY extensive history of the trade unions and their membership. Here’s what the report recommended re: trade unions:

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  • By: shane Mon, 11 Apr 2011 17:25:44

    In reply to shane.

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  • By: shane Mon, 11 Apr 2011 17:52:31

    The part about the need for nationally controlled unions was criticised in a reservation by Louie Bennett and Senator Sean Campbell:

    though defended by Fr Peter McKevitt (the professor of Catholic Action at Maynooth) in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record (pg 362)

    Click to access ier.pdf

    see also Bishop Browne’s (who chaired the Commision) introductory pamphlet:

    Click to access vocationalorganisation.pdf

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  • By: Jolly Red Giant Mon, 11 Apr 2011 18:43:44

    In reply to Mark P.

    There was also a party named the Revolutionary Socialist Party established in 1919 as basically a split from the SPI when O’Brien refused to back a general strike in favour of the Limerick Soviet and also included members of the Belfast Socialist Labour party. It was formed in early May 1919 in Belfast and included people like Kitty Coyle, Jack Hedley and Sean Dowling. Dowling was an ITGWU organiser in Limerick and Hedley described him as the ‘philosophical begetter’ of the Limerick Soviet. Later both Hedley and Dowling were to play pivotal roles in the Knocklong, Bruree and Castleconnell Soviets and the widespread Muster Soviets of 1922.

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  • By: Budapestkick Mon, 11 Apr 2011 18:51:55

    In reply to shane.

    Wow Shane. Fascinating stuff. I’m always blown away by the sheer amount of material on LO.

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  • By: shane Mon, 11 Apr 2011 19:07:08

    In reply to Budapestkick.

    Thanks Budapestkick, I keep meaning to scan in the whole report but will get round to it.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 11 Apr 2011 19:34:05

    In reply to Budapestkick.

    Yes Shane, thanks for your efforts.

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  • By: shane Mon, 11 Apr 2011 19:46:43

    In reply to shane.

    Cheers Mark

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Tue, 12 Apr 2011 15:54:09

    […] Socialist Party of Ireland (SPI): Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Ireland with Declaration of Principles (1951) * Workers Association: The Ulster General Strike, 1974, including Strike Bulletins of the […]

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  • By: Charlie Thu, 25 Jun 2015 14:06:41

    In reply to Mark P.

    And the Trotskyist Revolutionary Socialist Party of the 1940s, branches in Belfast and Dublin, c 1938 – closed 1949.

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