Irish Stalinists

mmcdon mmcdon at
Tue Nov 7 18:26:43 MST 2000

> Basically, British and Irish Stalinism, via a number of intellectuals
> trained in and around the British and Irish CPs, gained a real influence
> the Republican Movement in the late 60s, which resulted in the
> Official/Provo split of 1969/70.  The Officials later became the Workers
> Party and in 1977 produced 'The Irish Industrial Revolution' which laid
> this thesis.
> The Stalinist Workers Party went on to welcome big foreign companies
> investing in Ireland on the basis that imperialism would bring an
> industrial revolution which the Irish national bourgeoisie, because of
> Catholicism, could not.  Of course, this also meant that obstacles to the
> imperialist development of Ireland - like the anti-imperialist movement -
> had to be removed.  So the Sticks supported the suppression of the Provos
> (SF/IRA).

I think you are offering a somewhat distorted picture of what happened. The
"Republican Movement" shifted to the left in the 1960s after the abject
failure of the abortive Border Campaign. The CPs certainly played some role
in influencing its political direction, but the primary stimulus was a
realisation that almost nobody supported their 1950s "armed struggle"
(otherwise known as a strategy of individual terrorism). This in turn led
to the IRA and their supporting milieu putting their weight behind the
Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights Movement, as we all know, changed
everything in the North.

The Provo\Official split was not the simple result of CPI influence over
the Republican leadership. It was a rather more complex affair. Most of the
proto-Provos felt that the IRA had failed to defend Catholic ghettos from
Orange mobs, during the violent backlash to the Civil Rights campaign. In
addition many of the Provisionals, many of them devoutly religious, were
rejecting class based politics for what can only be termed creed politics.
A third strand is the interference of right wing Southern politicians, who
wanted to help Northern Catholics and simultaneously to rid the IRA of
uncomfortable socialist attitudes.

At the time of the split both factions had uncompromisingly anti-British
attitudes. Both were waging campaigns of bombings and assassinations. The
Officials, however, regarded the Provos as little more than a bunch of
sectarian killers. In that they were wrong. The Provisionals were and
remain a much more complex beast than that. But that their fundamental long
term strategy has been to unite all Catholics regardless of class and to,
at best, ignore the Protestant working class cannot be doubted.

As for the Officials evolution into the present day Workers Party, it was a
slow and prolonged process. You are, of course, entirely correct to say
that they ended up with a determinedly reactionary attitude to the North
but such a course of events was not predetermined by their shift towards
class politics in the 1960s.

> While Trotsky himself said that 'British socialists who refuse to support
> the Irish struggle with all their might should be branded with infamy if
> not with a bullet' (it's near enough an exact quote), British Trotskyists
> often exhibited degrees of ambivalence towards the Irish sturggle that
> not entirely dissimilar to most of the CP.

It would of course be ridiculous to suggest that the Irish situation was
not identical in 1995 to the Irish situation in 1915, right?

Is mise le meas,
Brian Cahill

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