James Connolly

Submitted by Matthew on 11 April, 2012 - 9:22

[A text of the Irish Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, 1947]

On Easter Monday 1916, some hundreds of republicans and socialists rose in arms in Dublin to overthrow the centuries-old British rule in Ireland. Among their leaders was James Connolly, who for most of the years since 1896 had been the leading writer and agitator for socialism in Ireland and amongst the Irish in America [1903 -1910].

Ever since 1916 Connolly’s name has been widely honoured in nationalist Ireland, and ever since then significant minorities have tried or pretended, in one way or another, to continue his combination of revolutionary socialism and revolutionary commitment to Irish freedom.

Mostly the “Connollyites” have been people for whom socialism is a vague add-on to militant Irish nationalism. Some of them have been Stalinists, or Stalinised republicans.

The authentic revolutionary Marxist strand has been weak. Before the 1960s, the only Trotskyist group to have existed in Ireland was one called the Revolutionary Socialist Party, active in the 1940s.

The article we reprint here, from Labor Action (paper of the US Trotskyist group led by Max Shachtman, Hal Draper, and others) of 9 June 1947, is reported there as coming from “the first issue” of Workers’ Republic, the “new organ of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Irish Section of the Fourth International”.

The leaflet also reproduced here, originally published in 1948, also comes from the RSP. In that leaflet the RSP advocated a policy which resembles what AWL has long argued on the question of relations between the Protestant (or British-Irish) or Catholic communities in Ireland. It called for a “wide degree of Protestant autonomy in Northern Ireland”.

It seems to us that a federal united Ireland is the only feasible arrangement now, but our fundamental idea has been expressed like this since 1969: “As much autonomy for the Protestant Irish minority as is compatible with the rights of the Irish majority”. The exact details will be worked out in negotiation.

The RSP was initially linked to the British Revolutionary Communist Party, and then a separate organisation. In the late 1940s discussion amongst Trotskyists about the class nature of Stalinist Russia, it adopted the position of Shachtman, Draper, and their comrades, that it was bureaucratic-collectivist. One of its members was Matt Merrigan, who wrote on Ireland for Labor Action in the 1950s, and was secretary of a major union in Ireland, the ATGWU, from 1960 to 1986. The RSP’s secretary and most prominent activist was Bob Armstrong.

A note accompanying the Connolly article in Labor Action relays a report that the RSP had recently organised a Connolly commemoration meeting with 600 workers attending; but the RSP itself was always tiny, and it disappeared at the end of the 1940s.

Very little is known today about the RSP. We have been unable to trace any surviving copies of its publication Workers’ Republic. The Labor Action reprint of the Connolly article was billed as an abridgement, and on internal evidence may include typographical errors (though we have corrected obvious ones); but is the only version available.

The Connolly article gives little attention to the question of relations between the Protestant and Catholic communities, or how the partition of Ireland might be overcome given the solid opposition of the Protestant workers in Northern Ireland — at that time by far the strongest contingent of Ireland’s industrial working class — to Dublin rule. It appears to dismiss fears of Protestants suffering disadvantage in a Catholic-majority united Ireland as mythical, and thus to dismiss the Protestant workers’ concerns as mere bigotry, to be dispelled simply by strong agitation against capitalism; but the 1948 leaflet shows that this was not the RSP’s settled view.

Maybe on this point, and others, the article is skewed by the pressures of the RSP’s polemic against the other socialistic and labour groups with which it had to compete. The Irish political scene then was very different from today.

The IRA scarcely existed. It was demoralised and discredited by its attempts to cooperate with Nazi Germany during World War Two.

The Communist Party had divided itself into two parties, North and South, during World War Two, the better to navigate the constraints imposed on it by Russia’s wartime alliance with Britain. The Communist Party of Northern Ireland had become effectively a Unionist party, and won a large following among Protestant workers and trade unionists.

The Northern Ireland Labour Party was a major force, winning 19% of the vote in the 1945 Stormont election. Other “Labour” groupings had some weight in Northern Ireland.

The Commonwealth Labour Party, discussed in the article, had been formed in 1942 by former NILP leader Harry Midgley when he split from the NILP on anti-nationalist grounds. By 1947 Commonwealth Labour was in sharp decline. It would dissolve later that year, and Midgley eventually joined the Unionist Party.

Another former NILP leader, Jack Beattie, won the Westminster seat of Belfast West in 1945 as an independent, more pro-nationalist than the NILP: he would later join the 26-Counties-based Irish Labour Party, which for a time contested elections in Northern Ireland. Harry Diamond was elected as a “Socialist Republican”.

The Irish Labour Party prospered less: its vote had gone down from 16% at the 1943 general election in the 26 Counties to 9% in the 1944 and 1948 elections. It was weakened by a split (broadly right-wing, but unclear) which formed a rival “National Labour Party” between 1944 and 1950, and by the rise of a leftish republican-turned-parliamentary party, Sean MacBride’s Clann na Poblachta.

As the RSP said, the Irish Labour Party was heavily hegemonised by the main bourgeois nationalist parties. Subservient to De Valera’s Fianna Fail at the time of the 1947 article, the Irish Labour Party would join a coalition government under Fine Gael, the more conservative of the big nationalist parties, after the February 1948 election.

The coalition government formally declared the 26 Counties a republic, breaking the last tenuous and notional link to the British Crown, and started a noisy campaign of “Anti-Partition” publicity, response to which may well have informed the 1948 RSP leaflet.

From Workers’ Republic, 1947

Only the Unionists unreservedly scorn Connolly’s memory. The Eire ruling circles have to be more circumspect. They are even compelled to acknowledge him as a national hero.

For, as the Irish capitalists are unable to falsify the history of Easter in the manner that Stalin has falsified October, it remains common knowledge to every schoolboy that he was one of the two outstanding leaders of the Easter rebellion. Thus it is that Connolly, the revolutionary socialist, has suffered the unusual and curious fate of becoming an object of involuntary homage rendered by capitalist exploiters.

To be sure, the Fianna Fail conservatives, while paying cautious homage to his memory, piously lament his “tragic error” in embracing the class-war doctrines of Marx. They would prefer to erase the socialist imprint from the hero’s pedestal, and to insert “purely national” in its stead. On the other hand, the fascist fringe of the nationalist movement, posing as the champions of the downtrodden unemployed and low-paid workers, freely cull excerpts from Connolly’s teachings to suit their own reactionary purposes.

Within the republican wing of the labour movement, Connolly is hailed by all as the final authority in matters of socialist principle. Unfortunately, however, the much quoted texts from his works are seldom understood and frequently perverted.

To revive the genuine tradition of Connolly among the youth, and among the members of the labour movement generally, is the major task of Workers’ Republic. This tradition, however, is not like a dish of Irish stew which can be apportioned to the various sections of the labour movement, in accordance with the requirements of each of them. If by Connollyism is meant uncompromising class struggle against every shape and form of capitalist exploitation — and an honest study of Connolly’s teachings cannot lead to any other interpretation — then only the sprinkling of socialist workers grouped around the banner of the Revolutionary Socialist Party have the true right to designate themselves Connollyites.

We assert this tranquilly and confidently, happy in the knowledge that we shall hardly offend the leaders of official labour who love to drape themselves in Connolly’s cloak on holiday occasions. For most of them won’t even read our paper and, if they do, they will give broad, tolerant grins.

The class-war doctrines of Marx seem realistic to these people only when they seem to relate to past history and have come to rest in the works of someone already dead and famous.

Long experience has likewise habituated us to the sarcastic jibes of the so-called Communist Party, North of Ireland and British, whose Connolly Club — a part of the Stalinist solar system — is designed to divert the patriotic and class militancy of Irish émigré workers into channels useful to Stalin’s diplomacy. We recall how, during the Stalin-Hitler pact period of the war, the Irish Stalinists played the role of anti-partition crusaders, and how later, during the Churchill-Stalin pact, with breathtaking effrontery, they proclaimed themselves adherents of the constitutional position of the Six Counties.

They hailed Brooke as the leader of the “progressive” wing of the Stormont Tories. They flew the Union Jack, symbol of imperialist oppression, at their demonstrations. And — make sense of this who can — they demanded the substitution of the Civil Authorities Special Powers Acts by the British Emergency Powers (which in the hands of the Tory Unionists would have fulfilled precisely the same function). And during this period, the bust of Connolly escaped the indignity of being decorated by an orange sash by a hair’s breadth; for while bowing and scraping before Brooke and “our” Irish generals, the Communist Party continued to profess allegiance to Connolly, Lenin, and Marx.

Connolly, first, last, and always, based himself on the class struggle, and his Citizen Army grew directly out of the picket of the great 1913 strike in Dublin. He was an internationalist whose fiery denunciations of imperialist brigands of 1914 are still the most invigorating writings that have ever appeared in the British labour press.

Liebknecht’s slogan, “Down with war! The main enemy is at home!”, and Lenin’s, “Turn the imperialist war into civil war!”, found a ready echo in Ireland. Connolly was full of praise for the heroic Liebknecht. In his Forward articles he urged the leaders of the European labour movement to throw their influence into transforming the imperialist war into a struggle for socialist liberation. The northern star gleaming beyond the shadows of night is no further distant from this orb of ours than Connolly’s programme of class struggle is from the reformist vapourings of the republican socialists of today.

However, it was the tactic of harnessing to the goal of socialism that earned Connolly a distinctive place in history. All other aspects of his greatness he shares with others. But this uniqueness lay in the circumstances themselves.

What, then, was the Easter Week tactics? Was it a putschist effort? An act of desperation arising out of a loss of faith in working-class mass action? Was it a desertion of the socialist goal, as Connolly’s socialist critics allege?

Putschism, whether left-wing or right-wing in character, is characteristically based on the notion that the mass of people will remain passive onlookers, while an attempt is made at the seizure of state power by an elite of politicians turned militarist, or, more familiarly, by the members of the officer caste itself. The insurrection of October 1917, for example, was not in any sense of the word a putsch, although accomplished by a comparatively small number of Red Guards. The Tsarist and capitalist reaction inside the country was demoralised, and foreign intervention had not yet begun. The mass of workers, fully conscious of all the issues at stake, stood ready to answer a call to arms as they had done against the putschist attempt of General Kornilov.

The Irish war of liberation took place in reverse order to the Russian Revolution. There, the popular mass struggle of February paved the way for the October overturn. Here, the insurrection of Easter preceded and, in fact, produced the popular upsurge.

Thus, Easter Week had every appearance of putschism; for here was a small body of fighters, numbering not more than several hundreds in all, who challenged to battle a mighty empire whose soldiers were undemoralised and armed for a large-scale war.

Connolly, Pearse, and their comrades were the nation’s idealists. Yet nonetheless they were a part of a trampled populace, whose dream they expressed and whose understanding they sought to gain through struggle. Hundreds of years of imperialist tyranny had made the vision of liberation so much a part of the personalities of Irish men and women that, trading with Britain and even fighting for her, they scarcely took account of their yearning to be free. The Easter battle broke the habit of compliance, It brought the dream to life. Going down in defeat, it touched potent springs of revolt and brought welling out of the nation’s heart a flood of patriotic courage and resolve. The British had won a Pyrrhic victory. Their power over most of Ireland was broken.

It is not the military debacle in itself which is of first consequence when a popular insurrection goes down to defeat, but the political conduct of the insurgent leaders. The magnificent struggle of the Asturian miners in 1934, although bloodily suppressed, left the Spanish workers undismayed and paved the way for the bitter resistance to Franco.

On the other hand, the battles which raged in the streets of Madrid in 1939, between the forces of the Spanish “Communist” Party and those of Colonel Casado — their erstwhile ally in the Popular Front — were prestige-saving putschist actions. The rival factions grappled while the victorious fascist army stood at the gate, and while the Spanish working masses, bewildered by betrayal and bled white by the war, looked on impotently.

The valiant uprising of the Warsaw Jews against the Nazis, in the latter part of the war, was strikingly reminiscent of the Easter Week rebellion in some of its features. Here were representatives of a people doomed to physical extirpation who rose against their oppressors and fought with legendary courage until they were overwhelmed and massacred. The situation of the Irish under Britain in the 20th century did not parallel the plight of the Jews under Hitler. But in the threat of the Northern Carsonite, the presence of a strutting alien soldiery in the land, the slaughter of Irish youth enlisted with the British, there was inflammable material enough at hand to light the flames of the Easter insurrection.

The patriotism of capitalist exploiters is a quality altogether different from the selfless idealism of rebels fighting to free their land. To insist that Connolly was above all an international socialist is not thereby to fall into the error of supposing that the passion of patriotism was absent from his feelings. His patriotic fervour was intense, and his fiery hatred and contempt for his country’s oppressors inevitably betrayed him into occasional exaggerations. For instance, in his War Against the German People he favourably contrasts the German industrialists to the brutal, mean, and slothful ruling class of England. On the other hand, in other articles of the same period, he heaps equal hatred and contempt upon the German imperialist brigands.

It is worth noting that the Stalinist party, during the Stalin-Hitler pact period, published Connolly’s War Against the German People without a word of criticism. Within two years, however, they were describing the German people as “Huns”.

An erstwhile revolutionist, Koestler, makes a mock of those Marxists who continue to harbour feelings of passionate personal animosity toward their political enemies, in apparent contradiction to the doctrine that the evil lies not, in man but in his circumstances. But this is theorizing out of time and space. It is the “whips and scorns” of capitalist society which shape the rebel soul of the revolutionist long before he has worked out his philosophy of life. Lenin understood this when, writing of Gallagher in his youth, he spoke of “his noble proletarian hatred”. And noble, too, was the patriotic wrath of Connolly and Pearse, contemplating the trampled pride of the Irish people.

It would be interesting to discover how many of those who accused Connolly of abandoning the working-class struggle found themselves later in the bandwagon of capitalist imperialism, or else found comfortable posts in the official opposition — in reality, the junior partnership, of the De Valera regime.

These guardians of purity notwithstanding, the revolutionary military alliance with the Volunteers was entirely in accordance with socialist principle. “Keep your arms, your allies of today may be your enemies of tomorrow” was the warning issued by Connolly to the Citizen Army on the eve of battle; and when it is borne in mind that Pearse and his friends were men who wielded no means of coercion over the workers — unlike the allies of Stalinism, such as de Gaulle and Churchill — but were, indeed, men prepared to live or die as outlaws in the eyes of official society, then the principal difference between the revolutionary tactic of Connolly and the opportunist politics of the Stalinist Popular Fronters, or of the labour reformist capitulators to the capitalist state, is apparent.

At the end of the Second World War, the European capitalist classes found themselves in perilous circumstances. War and occupation had reduced the capitalist economy to conditions of chaos. The professional armies and the police, formerly reliable instruments in holding down the workers, had either been shattered or dispersed; or else had so compromises their standing through Quisling collaboration with the Nazis as to have forfeited the allegiance of even the backward elements of the population.

The working-class forces emerging from the underground had won sufficient moral authority among the middle classes to have been able to lead virtually the whole of society in a struggle against the capitalist exploiters. Intervention, blockade, as well as the exhausted state of the economy, would have presented huge difficulties to the newly-arisen workers’ states; but the Russian workers survived such conditions and, in any case, no lesser dangers and difficulties can be envisaged for the future.

However, the Stalinists and reformists used their influence to dissolve the militias, and formed coalition governments with the exploiters to work for the restoration of the capitalist state. Had the militias of the working class been trained in the Citizen Army tradition by leaders of the stamp of Connolly, the rotting structure of capitalism would have been swept away. Connolly would have fought the Nazis in the underground and would have formed military alliances with non-socialist sections of the Resistance Movement, but he would not have dreamed of liquidating the independent military formations of the working class in the interests of reconstituting bankrupt capitalism; and far from entering into political partnership with Badoglio and de Gaulle, he would have described them as criminals on an equal plane with the Nazis.

It may be added that whereas the Stalinists incessantly preached racial hatred against the German workers there can be found nowhere in the works of Connolly, even by the implication of a chance phrase, a single word of insult directed against the English working class.

The Easter Week proclamation was revolutionary nationalist in tone, and capitalist-liberal in content. But as the German Marxist Lassalle has taught, the essence of constitution lies in the balance of power between the classes. It was far from a foregone conclusion that, once the British power had been vanquished, a new native capitalist state would take its place. The final outcome of the struggle begun in Easter Week depended on the further course of the international class struggle. Meanwhile, the supreme immediate task lay in smashing the coercive power of the British and casting out of the Irish race the spirit of submissiveness.

But nevertheless, argue the critics, the capitalist state did consolidate itself, and the Easter rebellion led to the triumph of Cosgrave and De Valera’s regime. These utterly superficial critics belong to the same camp as those who attribute Stalinism to the thought and action of Lenin. The truth is, however, that the triumph of the reactionaries took place despite the revolutionaries, and because of the aid afforded them by the treacherous leaders of the workers.

Had the conflagration which consumed the Russian state extended to the West, then the role of the Citizen Army, thanks to the prestige won in the struggle of Easter Week, would have been immense in advancing the cause of the workers’ revolution throughout the whole of the British Isles. But the Western capitalist powers stood immune from the fires of revolution, and, in Central Europe, reformist socialism extinguished the flame. The survival of capitalism in the decisive centres ruled out the prospect of a revolutionary development in Ireland.

The struggle between the partisans of the treaty and the wing of irreconcilable republicans, and the partitioning of the country by the British, led to the victory of the De Valera regime in the South and the rule of the Carsonite Tories in the six Northeastern counties. Two generations of ardent youths expended themselves in the apparently hopeless effort to oust the British from their Orange bridgehead in the North. The more fiercely and resolutely glowed the spirit of struggle among the baffled republican forces, the more firmly the Tory regime consolidated its support in the ranks of a misled, bigoted working class. Today, the proof that the Irish working class is the most conservative in Europe lies in the longevity of the rival governments.

De Valera strengthened his influence during the war. His neutrality policy protected the Eire state from the shocks, upheavals, and devastation which shook the political stability of the belligerent capitalist states. The safety valve of emigration prevented the unemployment question from becoming a threat to stability.

An immense force for the indoctrination of conservative ideas is the church, whose historic power as a national (and nationalist) institution is perpetuated by the stagnant condition of living standards and the consequent absence of a sharp hunger for social change among the workers.

And, in place of rebellious, landless peasants of former days, there are the petty proprietors of today who, though hostile to the monopolies which exploit them, are nonetheless imbued with a conservative dread of change.

Every child knows that the overriding political issue of the past quarter century has been the country’s disunity and the presence of Britain in the North. The capitalist system maintains itself on the division of the workers, and no working class has ever been more effectively divided than the Irish. A unified, independent Ireland, or union with Britain? Over this problem reformist socialism has floundered helplessly for a generation. Labour reformism is by its nature compelled to keep in step with the popular prejudices. However, the thorny problem is what to do when two rigidly opposing sets of prejudices divide the workers. This split on the constitutional question has lea to division among the reformist socialists themselves.

The Commonwealth Labour Party is the avowed defender of the British connection within the Northern labour movement. The Commonwealth Party justifies its position on the grounds of the cultural affinities and common traditions of the peoples of England and Ireland; of the superior social services under Britain; and of the anti-labour role of the Catholic Church, as demonstrated, for instance, during the Spanish War.

However, while it is true that speech, literature, history, trade unionism, politics and economics tend to cement the closest bonds between the Irish and British workers, on the other hand the tradition of greatest political consequence to the Protestant workers (whom Commonwealth aspires to represent) is the one which they share with their nationalist fellow workers; namely, the “Irish Question”, under which heading we place religious bigotry, church politics, the Orange Order, the IRA, the special powers, partition, and all, in short, that keeps the workers behind the banners of Orange or Green Toryism.

The sectarian hatreds can be finally burned away only through working-class unification around a programme of all-sided struggle against the vested interests. Down with the factory bosses and the landlords, the partition politicians and the Orange leaders, the police dictators, the church politicians and sectarian ideologues of every hue! It is only through engaging in the creative task of transforming the social system and establishing the workers’ republic that the consciousness of the workers will be changed.

It is undeniable that the Westminster subsidy allows six county residents superior social services to Eire’s. But it is equally true that two generations of British workers have had to spill their blood on Europe’s battlefields in defence of these standards, won through class struggle and made possible by Britain’s world exploitive power. Let us recall in this connection the efforts of the Commonwealth leaders to persuade the six county workers to accept conscription.

High prices and ever-mounting taxation weigh down the gains which the Northerners share with the British. A merciless trade war and a further military struggle loom ahead. Viewed against such an oncoming of ruin and bloody destruction, the question of the relative level of social amenities between Eire and the North is of minor importance. In raising the question of social service levels, the Commonwealth leadership demonstrates its essential adherence to capitalism, and its belief in its reliability.

It does not seriously occur to them that the duty of socialists is not to choose between De Valera and Brooke regimes, but to advance the goal of workers’ power.

The harsh conditions of capitalism drive thousands of fresh layers of workers yearly in the direction of the labour movement. A few thousand workers, influenced by a fighting movement, would win the masses of people behind them in a social crisis.

Meanwhile the greatest counter-pressure to the growth of a socialist consciousness in Ireland is the Northern regime, its subsidised services notwithstanding. Tory unionism is an exceptional regime, neither fascist nor democratic, which preserves itself by playing on the Protestant fears arising out of the size of the nationalist minority and the proximity of the Eire republic. To keep green the seeds of sectarian division among the people must inevitably remain the guiding principle of its policy.

It is fantastic to suppose that within even a capitalist republic the roles would be reversed and that the Protestant workers would become the object of sectarian discrimination. The concentration of the Protestants and the anti-sectarian bias which partition has given the nationalist workers, are sufficient guarantees. In contrast to Stormont exceptionalism, there is a normal, reactionary capitalist regime. Far from providing a base for the Catholic indoctrination of Protestant children — as the Protestant Action demagogues allege — the unification of Ireland would weaken the power of the anti-socialist crusaders of Catholic Action by providing a superior mobilising point for the class struggle.

Between Stormont and the Dail we therefore make some distinction. To choose a hypothetical example, we would support strike action protesting attempts to force a reunion with Britain on Eire. On the other hand, we would denounce as reactionary a strike action aimed against the incorporation of the six counties into an Irish republic. Such considerations could only be modified in the event of a fascist government coming to power in the South.

At no time would we assume any shred of responsibility for the political actions of the capitalist parties of either side, or sacrifice working-class independence for the sake of dubious “in-between” policies. Our supreme task is to heighten the socialist consciousness of the workers, to arm them with an understanding with an understanding that the Fianna Fail and the Unionist politicians are the agents of the employers, to convince them that capitalism is bankrupt, and to equip them with a programme for power.

The main republican wing of the labour movement, the Eire Labour Party, by its demonstrated alliance with De Valera on questions of high state policy and its purely verbal opposition on secondary issues, by its acceptance of the Papal encyclicals and by its failure to lead the class struggle of the Southern workers, plays into the hands of the partitionists and sectarians. Its anti-partition campaign is conducted on abstract historical grounds unrelated to the class needs of the workers of either side. Its activities are conducted outside the consciousness of the Northern Protestant workers.

The small group within the ranks of the Northern Ireland Labour Party adhering to the “Back to Westminster” slogan objectively belong to the same camp as Commonwealth. The “Back to Westminster” faction starts from the correct conception that Stormont is a regime of exceptionalism; but apparently works on the theory that under the benevolent sway of the British Labour government, sectarian animosity would die away.

However, the existence of a reformist Labour government, whose position is bound to become precarious and whose leaders in any case willingly collaborate with Tory Unionism, is no guarantee against a return to the pre-Stormont Carsonite era. The capitalist Unionists derive their strength not merely from the existence of the Stormont Parliament but from their social position and from partition and the special powers maintained by successive British governments, including the present Labour regime. “Back to Westminster” would perpetuate Irish disunity and prevent active partnership between the workers of both sides around the programme of the workers’ republic, which alone can exorcise the spectre of further sectarian strife.

The official Labour leadership in the North likewise adheres to a pro-partition standpoint. Posing as Labour purists they dismiss the border question as a “capitalist bogey”! To evade the problem of the border means, however, to accept the constitutional status quo.

The Labourites rest their hopes on the worker profiting from the British example by returning Labour majorities on both sides of the border. An enlightened Labour Ireland would then, presumably, settle the question of partition amicably, in accordance with the expressed wishes of the constituents.

Unquestionably the swing to Labour in Britain led to a strengthening of the Labour Party’s prestige in Northern Ireland; but this can easily be exaggerated. The British leftward swing took places largely outside the consciousness of the workers here. The Labour government was not their creation and, as County Down demonstrated, large masses of Protestants remain hostile to it.

Nonetheless, the opportunities of the Irish Labour parties depend largely upon the fate of the present British government, which is now entering heavy weather. The “tragedy” of Fabian socialism, which grew out of the theory of a peaceful partnership between the classes founded on mutual prosperity, is that its advent to power occurred not in the lush days of imperialism but in the period of capitalism’s death agony.

Today, however, Britain has been cast out of the privileged circle of nations. United States competitive supremacy, Russia’s challenge on the Continent, the Indian debacle, the fuel crisis, the burden of militarism, her outdated equipment and her new status as a debtor nation are scales wherein to weigh the dwindling strength of imperial England.

However, the exposure of the bankruptcy of the present leadership would not necessarily terminate the Labour Party’s governmental career; and in any event certainly would not mean the end of the party as a mass working-class organisation.

The emergence from within the movement of left-wing opposition tendencies, revolutionary or pseudo-revolutionary, is inevitable. Thus it remains a likely perspective that the Labour parties, basing themselves on the left of the British movement, will win a majority of the workers in the decisive urban centres, though the rural vote renders the prospect of gaining majorities in the Parliaments remote.

Arising out of the cataclysmic conditions of crisis, such a shift to Labour would signify a revolutionary state of mind among the workers. However, to consummate the revolution would require a labour rank and file trained in the programme of Marxism and in the spirit of Connolly’s tradition and a leadership altogether different in quality from the present dozing leaders.

The crying need of the hour is for the development of a tendency within the Labour parties basing itself on the programme of the Workers’ Republic.

Trotskyists, workers' unity and Irish unity

This leaflet was produced by the Revolutionary Socialist Party in 1948. The “coalition” referred to is the Dublin government formed after the the February 1948 election in the 26 Counties.

Labour must withdraw from the Coalition! An Emergency Conference of the branches must be called to repudiate the leaders and demand their withdrawal. If on being directed to withdraw, they refuse — expulsion must follow.

Full support must be given to this policy by Northern Ireland Labour. The workers' interests can be defend only against all capitalist parties.

An all-Ireland conference should be called, giving representation and voice to all working-class tendencies, for the formulation of a programme linking the fight against partition with the anti-capitalist struggle.

1. Complete political independence from Britain. Transfer of the Westminster powers to a United Dail.

2. A wide degree of Protestant autonomy in Northern Ireland.

3. Restore all civil liberties. Full religious freedom and tolerance. No clerical intrusion into politics!

4. Solidarity with all peoples oppressed by British imperialism, Russia, or any other power. No secret commitments to Anglo-American imperialism.

5. Workers' Control in industry.

6. Finance housing and full employment at the expense of profits and rents.

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