From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.8, August 1939, pp.3-5.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The preparation for the rigid military dictatorship which will be clamped down on Britain immediately the war starts has proceeded one step further by the passing of the reactionary Prevention of Violence Act by the Chamberlain government.
Proclaimed as a measure aimed at the IRA, the Act is an infamous piece of anti-working class legislation aimed directly at the democratic rights of the workers in this country.
The ease with which Chamberlain was able to rush it through the House of Commons however, was not shared by De Valera when he carried out a similar measure in the Treason Act. Twenty-four members of his own party, Fianna Fail, voted against the motion in the Dail, while many branches of his party along with hundreds of Republican and public bodies condemn the Act and demand its withdrawal.
The Irish Labour Party, which remained neutral during the Black and Tan period, now trails behind De Valera and at its conference in May discarded the first plank in its own platform on which James Connolly based the Irish political movement, “The Irish Workers’ Republic.”
On the other hand the turn of the Communist Party towards the Popular Front finds its greatest contradiction in Ireland. Side by side with the slogan of the “Defence of democracy against foreign aggression” in which they advise the Irish working-class to support Lloyd George, the leader of the Black and Tans, against “Hitler aggression” they utilise the slogans of the British yellow press and condemn the bombings of the IRA, not from a socialist point of view but as the acts of “agents of Hitler.” In this they reveal themselves as the agents of the British ruling class in Ireland.
For licking the boots of De Valera they have received the toady’s reward; they have been completely routed by the new attack against the democratic rights of the working-class which the passing of the Treason Act by De Valera inaugurates.
The defence of democracy is a topic about which Irishmen have ideas of their own, for not a century has passed throughout the 700 years of British economic and political domination of Ireland without an attempt on the part of the Irish people to free themselves from British rule and establish a democratic Irish republic.
Up till now every attempt has been drowned in the blood of the Irish people after a ruthless campaign by the British Imperialists and the present bombings that have taken place in England have at least drawn the attention of the whole world to the regime of terror that the British capitalists have imposed on Ireland.
In 1914, at the period when British Imperialism was getting ready to grapple with its German rival, Sir Edward Grey was able to “thank God for that bright spot,” referring to Ireland, where the British capitalist class saw a source of food, as well as a reservoir of Irish peasants and workers who would be cannon fodder in the coming war. The Easter Rebellion in 1916 rudely awakened them to the fact that Irishmen had no interest in defending the profits of their own oppressors.
The bloody suppression of that revolt and the subsequent murder of its leaders, among whom was James Connolly – the first Irish Marxist – saw a new force enter the field of Irish politics: the Irish working-class.
The post-war revolutionary struggles which shook all Europe reached a peak in the proclamation of the “Irish Republic” in 1919 by Sinn Fein. The smashing of that republic by the Black and Tans and the years of civil war that followed up till 1923 saw the Irish working class pushing further ahead in the struggle for Irish freedom.
With the murder of 77 of the leaders of the Republican and working-class movement and the imprisonment of thousands of rebels, many of whom were shipped to England for internment, the movement entered into a period of decline and stagnation. Thousands of rebels, through starvation and political persecution, left the country and scattered all over the world.
Among the murdered leaders was Liam Mellows whose manifestoes from Mountjoy Prison in 1922 were the first Irish writings to lay down the programme of the Irish Socialist Revolution.
The 1921 Treaty saw the partition of Ireland into the six counties in the North which came under the direct control of British Imperialism and the twenty-six counties of the South, which constituted the Irish Free State. The Northern counties suffer under a semi-fascist dictatorship as brutal and reactionary as any of the military and semi-fascist dictatorships to be found on the Continent. In 1935, during the height of the struggle of the workers against the fascists, Craigavon, the director-in-chief of Britain’s pogrom gangs, who rules the North, was able to say:
“We have all we want here – the Orange Order, the Black Brethren and The B Specials, and they constitute all the Fascism that Ulster wants.”
A glance at some of the regulations of the notorious Special Powers Act would show the brutal terror that is exercised in Ulster at the present time. For instance, Regulation No.23 empowers the authorities “to order the arrest of any suspect without a warrant and his indefinite detention.” No.4 “To prohibit, in advance, any assembly of persons.” No.7a “To blow up bridges,” 18c “To examine the bank books of suspects and confiscate money.” 21 “To stop and seize any vehicle on the road.”
Under this act it is an offence for Gas, Electricity or Water employees to go on strike. Unlimited powers are also given to enter premises without warrants, and to make seizures. All questions from policemen must be answered under penalty. Troops and the notorious B Specials are regularly used against the workers when they come out on strike.
In the Free State conditions are no better. In 1934 De Valera commenced his capitulation to Britain and at the same time he started to attack the IRA An Phoblacht, the organ of the IRA, was suppressed and troops and tanks used against the striking workers.
It was at this period that the IRA, standing solidly against British Imperialism, began to take the lead in the struggle of the working-class.
When the Transport Workers came out on strike in 1935 De Valera immediately sent troops to smash their strike. The Army High Command of the IRA issued a statement that it supported the strikers in their demands and that it would defend the workers from the Free State Army. This had tremendous repercussions amongst the working-class and at the Easter and Wolf Tone Commemoration Marches the contingents of the IRA led the whole of the working-class forces.
In the strikes that took place at this time under the leadership of the United Tenants League for a 50 per cent. reduction in rent the IRA took a leading part, and through the militancy of its members won great support among the poor farmers and workers who were on strike.
From 1935 the leadership has passed into the hands of Sean Russell and the forms of activity have changed. Russell, himself, and other IRA leaders, have been touring the various countries of the world. It is claimed that Russell has raised £200,000 in America and in the meantime the IRA has completely dug itself into all existing Republican organisations, including the Clan-na-Gail and the IRDA.
The tactic of the bomb has certainly created a tremendous interest among Irish workers. While the British Imperialists are straining every nerve to unify their forces in the face of the coming world war, the proclamation of the IRA calls upon all Irishmen to take part in a civil war against Britain and for a united Ireland. That this tactic has been successful up to a point is beyond denial. The increase in the number of branches of all organisations that openly or otherwise support the IRA is proof enough of this, but that in itself is no guarantee that the proclaimed aims of the organisation will be accomplished.
The fact that the IRA makes no appeal to the British workers to take part in their struggle and that it makes no distinction between British capitalist and worker means that they are alienating wide sections of the people whose support they must have before the Irish Revolution can be achieved.
It is true that the British workers have not at any time come to the assistance of the Irish people, but that does not mean that an appeal directed to them on a class basis will not be able to gain their support.
Inside the IRA itself there are two conflicting currents. Not all the collaborators of Liam Mellows have been drawn into support of the bombing tactic. Tom Barry still remains in opposition. The discussion in the latest issues of An Phoblacht showed quite clearly the proletarian as distinct from the petty bourgeois point of view.
It is obvious that on the basis of its present platform the IRA will not be able to carry out a genuine struggle for a successful revolution without posing the problem of the fight for the Workers and Peasants Republic and taking up the struggle of Connolly. Sean Russell has recently said: “We are still fighting for De Valera because he is one of us.” Meanwhile De Valera continues to play the role of No.1 B Special of British Imperialism. The arrest of IRA members who have been expelled from England and of Joseph Clarke, editor of Wolfe Tone Weekly, which has been banned in England for some weeks, will have their repercussions in the crystallisation of a revolutionary working-class wing within the ranks of the IRA.
The task of the conscious revolutionary left who clearly understands the class structure of society is to enter the republican organisations and the IRA and to carry out the struggle, educate, explain, and in that manner create the necessary elementary understanding which can, under favourable circumstances, lay the basis for the Irish Fourth Internationalist Party.
The Irish revolution is under way and only the creation of that party will guarantee its success. The Irish capitalist class or the petty bourgeoisie are incapable of carrying through such a task successfully. The National Revolution must grow into the Socialist Revolution or else fall back into greater reaction. For the Irish people there is no way out except the road of the Irish Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.
Last updated on 11.9.2005