The Proletarian, Vol. 1, No. 4
Date:1988
Organisation: International Socialist League of Ireland
Publication: The Proletarian [ISLI]
Issue:Volume 1, Number 4
August 1988
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

26th November 2012

Again many thanks to Roasted Snow for the above document which is one of a number which he has donated to the Archive and which will be appearing across the next six months.

This paper was published by the International Socialist League of Ireland. The ISLI was a Trotskyist party allied to the International Socialist league in the UK, which itself had split from the version of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party led by Cliff Slaughter early in 1988, where it had been organised as the ‘Bolshevik Faction’. No mention is made of the British party in the text.

It has a varied contents, from a front page news story about a ‘Sinister Special Branch Operation’ detailing alleged intimidation of trade unionists by RUC Special Branch, to pieces on Privatisation, the Anniversary of Internment, a critique of the IRSP and a piece on ‘SF seeks change in military strategy’. It also includes ‘Perspectives of the ISL on Unionism, the working class and the revolutionary party.

Perhaps unusually for the left the paper outlines a process towards revolutionary socialism, which while clearly aspirational does outline some elements of such a transition.

It notes with some optimism:

…the scene is one of wildly oscillating positions out of which is emerging great revolutionary potential. There now exists a revolutionary situation in Ireland which can and must be fostered and transformed into revolution itself by the conscious activity of a revolutionary party giving essential leadership to an otherwise politically disorganised proletariat.

And it continues:

Only in this way can the Irish working class and rural masses as a whole unite in actin, expel British imperialism from Ireland, expropriate the Irish, British and International capitalists and set up a workers government based on soviets (Community councils).

It suggests that it will be foundation for a revolutionary party:

It is therefore urgent that an Irish revolutionary party be built out of the ISL to lead the Irish working class and its allies to revolution. In the process the corporatist links of the trade unions must be broken, the bureaucrats replaced by revolutionary fighters and the unions transformed into active revolutionary organisations.

And it exhorts readers in the following way:

Factory and Community Councils (Soviets) must be set up and organised to replace the existing bourgeois administrative structures. Unable to provide the necessary community services and facilities, the later must be smashed and their resources expropriated. Hospitals, schools, nurseries, old people’s homes, health centres, recreational centres and so on must all be taken over, staffed and run by the communities to prevent the total destitution of those communities and towards the foundational organs of revolutionary government.

The ultimate aim being:

The aims of the all-Ireland party must be the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship based on soviets, the rigid separation of church and state and the relegation of religion to the status of a private affair, the nationalisation of all banks and major farms and industries, and the implementation of revolutionary socialist poetics.

Roasted Snow adds:

I am not sure if this paper made it South of the border in any great strength.The ISL was led by Jonathan Lacey and Belfast based. Had a few activists but, with respect, with meagre resources published this and a student paper ‘Red Banner’. Adopted a typically WRP sectarian approach to the revolutionary left. The paper was sold door to door in Nationalist Working Class districts of Belfast. Was aligned to The Marxist Party in England associated with Vanessa and Corinne Redgrave. Jonathan put a strong emphasis on cadre studying dialectics via the Gerry Healy school of thought. Vol 14 very important. Yet it’s position on the republican movement was correct re; ceasefire and this before the collapse of the SU.

Apologies for the quality of the scans. Due to the nature of the original print many of the photographs are very murky.


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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 26 Nov 2012 08:00:04

    And then there are these people in the late 80s, linked by turns to two different WRP splinters. Was there any organisational continuity between these groups? Or was it a case of Healyism dying out and being reborn repeatedly?

    Hard to know, I’ve always suspected that any organisation associated with Healy tended in the main to be built around members of the WRP who found themselves back in Ireland rather than entirely organic growths. That may be unfair but that’s how it seems to be.

    Whether that was deliberate strategy on Healy’s part or simply something that happened is difficult to tell. So perhaps it was a case of Healy associated groups appearing again and again but never being able to make serious hay.

    RE the contradiction between being aligned to one form of Healyism or its rival/opposite, that’s an interesting one.

    More documents needed for the archive from the groups you reference above.

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  • By: Phil Mon, 26 Nov 2012 08:10:40

    I liked the situationist overtones of this bit

    the nationalisation of all banks and major farms and industries, and the implementation of revolutionary socialist poetics.

    but it turns out to be a typo – should be “policies”. Shame.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 26 Nov 2012 11:00:53

    In reply to Phil.

    Yes, they split the League for a Workers Republic. The pro Gerry Healy group then joined the SLL group in Belfast and formed the League for a Workers Vanguard, later the Workers League for obvious reasons.Belfast had Jackie Vance later I think in the Slaughter tendency.The Belfast group were mainly of a protestant and trade union background. Dave Fry, Terenure, led the Dublin group. He died. Dermot Whelan was another. Dermot later joined SF. He is very bitter abd now regards Trotskyiosm as a deviation.
    I was in the LWR and went with them. The biggest and most stupid mistake of my life. The LWR was a healthy formation.
    These groups were total sects.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 26 Nov 2012 11:04:12

    Oh a little history. The SLL had a litlle group before this in Dublin. They were allied to Brian Behan who was previously an industrial organiser of the CPGB and later for the SLL in London. It left/collapsed when Behan broke with Healy. Behan was later an anarchist and I think died in Brighton.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 26 Nov 2012 11:26:35

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    On different strands of Healyism, remember that the splinter groups eventually came to outnumber the grains of sand on a beach. And some of them, like the ISL in Britain, moved over to other international currents, in their case the Morenoite LIT. They weren’t all the same, and in particular those groups descended from the Anti-Healy wing tended to be markedly less nuts.

    While you are right that no Healyite group ever made “serious hay” in Ireland, I don’t think that they were all simply composed of a couple of people who’d been in the British group and a few hangers on. As I understand it, there were certainly a few dozen of them at various points, most notably in the mid 60s, and some of them, like the Belfast trade unionists Jim mentions, seem to have stuck it out for a fair while.

    I’d be somewhat surprised if all of the groups listed above managed to put out a publication, by the way. The Revolutionary Socialist Group, for instance, strikes me as a prime candidate to have never put anything in print, but maybe someone knows differently.

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  • By: irishanarchisthistory Mon, 26 Nov 2012 14:26:13

    Yes, Brian Behan died 10 years ago in Brighton. He was the brother of Brendan Behan. After his experiences in the CPGB and then the SLL he did a lot of reassessing, eventually rejecting Leninism and becoming an anarchist.

    On the “row over the national question” between the the early 1980s Workers League and the WRP. The main person in Dublin, Paul Billings, a one-time chair of the Irish National Union of the Unemployed, joined the IRSP

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  • By: charlie cairns Mon, 26 Nov 2012 14:28:10

    Groups 1-3 are healyite splinters – then there is the SRG, not 100%
    In 1970-71 the Belfast Young Socialists, healyite, sold Keep Left, a London paper around the pubs, etc.

    The Linen Halll Library in Belfast has the following material.

    1. International Socialist League
    News sheet of the International Socialist League.
    No.1 – No.2June 1985 – July 1985

    The proletarian.
    1:1 – 1:3, 1:5 – 1:9
    Sept/Oct 1987 – July 1988, Sept 1988 – June 1989

    2. Irish Soc League
    Produced a possible 11 issues of “Irish socialist press” 1985-6
    and 1 “Irish marxist review”, 1985.

    3. Irish Workers League
    “Irish Workers League” – 19 Nov 1982, 27 Nov 1982

    Marxist journal – produced in Dublin – at least 7 editions available, more may have been printed, between Dec 1974 and June 1977.

    Northern Area of the Workers League.
    “Workers league”, An undated edition, No. 2, in 1978.

    Revolutionary international – issue No 2, Jan 1975.

    Workers news, (Dublin) – July 1983 – Sept 1983

    Workers Struggle, by
    Central Committee of the Workers League Irish Section
    Vol 1 no 2 (Feb 1973) – No. 10 (dec 1973)

    4. Socialist Revolutionary Group (not sure if this Healyite without going to the Library, not in a rush!).
    Marxist forum = 3 issues, 1989

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  • By: Phil Mon, 26 Nov 2012 15:34:24

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    Dermot later joined SF. He is very bitter abd now regards Trotskyism as a deviation.

    [Brian Behan] did a lot of reassessing, eventually rejecting Leninism and becoming an anarchist.

    And just this morning I was reading about Mike Banda’s post-WRP trajectory – denouncing Trotskyism in favour of a fairly old-school reading of Communism, then arguing that Marxism as a whole was moribund & urgently needed an infusion of nationalism(!).

    There does seem to be a pattern here associating the WRP circle with political burnout, or at least burnout as a Marxist.

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  • By: Joe Mon, 26 Nov 2012 16:52:44

    In the 80s I was on a union committee with someone who I understood was a member of the League for a Workers Republic. And I was told around the same time by an ex-SWP Central Cttee member (now a very senior union bureaucrat) that a teacher in a secondary school I once worked in, which has gotten the a few mentions on CLR, was in the LWR.
    I always understood that the LWR was the Irish branch/wing of Healy’s Workers Revoutionary Party, before it burst apart.
    Having read all of the above, I am greatly confused. Was there a time when the LWR was the only version of the WRP in Ireland or were there always splinters/factions?

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 26 Nov 2012 18:31:42

    In reply to Joe.

    The LWR started out as an independent group, originating in the collapse of the Irish Workers Group. It quickly moved towards a link up with the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), then the more hard line / doctrinaire of the two main Trotskyist currents internationally. But the ICFI was in the process of breaking up and by this stage there was a kind of cold war between the two dominant sections, the British SLL (G. Healy prop.) and the French OCI (P. Lambert prop.).

    The LWR walked right into the middle of that mess and never really knew what hit them. The Healyites quickly split them so as to turn their new split group, the LWV, into an official ICFI section and gain a rotten borough vote against the French. Then the Mandelite USFI split the LWR again. And finally, after the ICFI split down the middle, the LWR fell into the embrace of the French side of that split’s new international grouping, the Organising Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International.

    Or to be less long winded about it, they were Lambertists not Healyites. They eventually split from the Lambertists as part of some international breakaway, I think in the mid to late 80s but by that stage they were dying out anyway.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 26 Nov 2012 18:43:21

    In reply to Mark P.

    I must see if I can get some of the docs listed below.

    That’s a fair point re how there were a few dozen of them. There must have been given the multiplicity of members. Still, interesting if someone gave us a view from the inside, as it were.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 26 Nov 2012 19:02:06

    In reply to charlie cairns.

    Nice work Charlie.

    I suspect that “Revolutionary International” is likely to have been a LWR publication rather than something Healyite, although duplicating names would hardly be unimaginable for the Healyites.

    The Socialist Revolutionary Group sounds like the affiliate of the WRP (Workers Press) mentioned in the Downey document as the Revolutionary Socialist Group. So kind of post-Healyite rather than Healyite,

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  • By: Joe Mon, 26 Nov 2012 19:52:23

    In reply to Mark P.

    Ta, Mark P. I can sleep easy now with another piece of the jigsaw sorted.

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  • By: Roasted Snow Mon, 26 Nov 2012 21:20:19

    In reply to Mark P.

    They were aligned to the Marxist Party and pro Healy.

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  • By: Roasted Snow Mon, 26 Nov 2012 21:22:01

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    Jonathan was English by birth and his formative WRP years spent in England.

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  • By: Jolly Red Giant Mon, 26 Nov 2012 23:00:01

    Have you guys got nothing better to be doing with your time 😉

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 26 Nov 2012 23:17:11

    In reply to Jolly Red Giant.

    What possible better use of time could there be than documenting and tracking the history of half a dozen extinct Healyite splinter groups in Ireland?

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  • By: charlie cairns Tue, 27 Nov 2012 17:42:17

    In reply to Mark P.

    One of the Belfast organisers of the 1980s Healyites, Felix Quigley has moved on!!

    http://4international.me/author/socialisttruthfacts/

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  • By: The Weekly Archive Worker: Housing is theft – housing is freedom « Entdinglichung Thu, 29 Nov 2012 08:47:47

    […] * The Proletarian, Paper of the International Socialist League of Ireland, August 1988 […]

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