Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Red Plough Vol 4-7

The Red Plough
Vol. 4-7

1/Denying the needs, Frustrating the rights

2/ Who said Boycott is dead?

denying the needs, frustrating the right

A recent article by Gary Mulcahy  in the July August edition of "The "Socialist" dealt with the emergence of residents groups in North Belfast. The article was in line with the narrative that the Socialist Party espouses. That narrative is along the following lines- republicans are sectarian- residents groups are sectarian-demands for housing in  North Belfast are sectarian- the Orange Order is sectarian but has a right to March and the only way forward is the building of a new mass party of the working class under the leadership of the trade union movement. Until such time as a mass labour Party is established meanwhile join the Socialist Party and fight against  Capitalism sectarianism etc. 
Cde Mulcahy specifically writes 

“There have been several attempts in recent years by republicans in North Belfast to mobilise on the theme of civil rights -highlighting the lack of housing in Catholic areas-a sectarian position which divides rather than unites working class people”

This is an odious position for a socialist to take.
Perhaps Cde Mulcahy missed this 

"The Committee is concerned about the chronic shortage of housing, in particular social housing, for the most disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, such as... Catholic families in Northern Belfast, in spite of the financial resources provided, and other measures taken, by the State party in this regard." 
Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, May 2009
A leading trade unionist and former activist in the civil rights movement in the late 1960’s was the late Inez McCormick.
She founded The Participation and the Practice of Rights organisation” (PPR), which was recognised by the United Nations in November 2012 for its work on housing in Northern Ireland.  

In May 2012 Inez wrote

"Any decision on housing in North Belfast has to evidence how it will concretely address the inequality experienced, in this case, by the Catholic community. Attempting to build good relations on the basis of denying the needs, frustrating the rights, and silencing the voices of the poorest is wrong in itself as it is destructive to the goal of building a shared future." (My emphasis).Inez McCormack (PPR Founder, May 2012)
Was her activity both in the sixties and prior to her death -sectarian? Did she in either period take a sectarian position? To even ask such a question shows the utter absurdity of Cde. Mulcahy’s position.

The PPR launched a report on housing in north Belfast  as recently as August 22rd 2013  called Equality CannotWaiThis report points out  that 

The Catholic community in North Belfast has long been impacted by religious inequality in housing.  PPR has worked on housing issues with people on the ground in North Belfast over the last seven years. Our work is showing that Catholics in North Belfast in need of housing have been repeatedly disadvantaged. This includes the failure of the £133 million North Belfast Housing Strategy to tackle inequality; the engineering of a Belfast City Centre ‘shared space’ being prioritised over addressing existing Catholic housing need; and the removal of protections which ‘ring-fenced’ new social homes for areas impacted by religious inequality.”
Currently on the web site of the PPR is the following 

Yesterday (19th September 2013) five north Belfast residents hand delivered letters and evidence to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive of their continuing dire housing circumstances.
Hugh McAuley lives on the 12 floor of Finn House, one of the Seven Towers high rise flats in north Belfast, with his four children. Hugh posted all five residents’ testimonies to the Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland MLA this morning (20th September 2013), including photographic and medical evidence of the impact of living in unacceptable housing conditions on each resident and their families.The residents’ testimonies detail how they, and other families, are being forced to live in cold and damp high rise accommodation, with little or no accessibility or space for children’s play and development.They detail how families have been forced to go without heat or hot water for over a month with no remedy.They detail how families have waited for years in ‘temporary’ hostels in cramped conditions and environments with their children.They detail how each resident’s health and wellbeing is affected in very different ways by the failure of the Department for Social Development and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to recognise and address the chronic problem of Catholic inequality in housing impacting north Belfast.”

There is enough evidence to show that neither the Housing Executive nor the Power Sharing Executive want, or desire, to tackle the housing problems of North Belfast. By labelling efforts to highlight the plight of the homeless in North Belfast the Socialist Party are in effect providing political cover for both those organisations

Sectarianism is institutionalised in the Northern State. All of the Government institutions and agencies were geared for over fifty years to maintaining Unionist control of the state. They did this by maginalising the nationalist population, confining them to ghettoes, depriving them of well paid jobs and harassing those who objected to their second class status with the full force of the RUC and the  B specials. Tho’ there have been changes since the fall of the old Stormont the institutions have not yet eradicated their institutional bias. 

For example  after 22 years from the fall of Stormont,

" The under representation of middle class catholics within the upper reaches of the occupational hierarchy has inevitably served to ensure that northern nationalists have remained marginal to the operation of the Northern Irish economy. The lack of strategic economy power possessed by Catholic professionals was graphically illustrated in a recent survey conducted by a local firm of management consultants. The agency concerned compiled a list of those figures considered to exercise "control or influence" over the economic life of the province.Of the one thousand individuals identified only 85 came from the catholic community"(from Irish Journal of Sociology Vol 4 1994 p 1-26 Class Ethnicity and Political Identity in Northern Ireland -Colin Coulter)

Of course there can be little doubt that the position of the catholic middle classes has improved since then. Once the Provisional Sinn Fein leadership decided to ditch their socialist cover, shed most of their republicanism and embrace northern nationalism then the way was cleared for the catholic middle classes to embrace the new “Northern Ireland” and rise up the economic ladder.

That in itself produced an inevitable reaction.  As many of us in the radical left predicted back in 1969 the granting of equality within the unionist state would lead to the alienation of the Protestant working class who would lose material benefits under capitalism.

 Sadly that has now come to pass. And yet some sections of that class have fallen victim to the same old sectarian games played by their political leaders aided and abetted by those academics who have pushed the Northern Ireland Office Line that the conflict here is in essence a cultural conflict.

Hence the nonsense about “flegs” and denial of cultural rights. So called “British Culture” is not under threat. However it suits political unionism to pretend it is in order to keep working classes at each others throats. The recent outburst by the first Minister, Peter Robinson, in Stormont against the TUV’s Jim Allister shows the true face of Northern Unionism -“never sell property to catholics”. That has always been the way that unionism has kept control- keep the taigs out. That is why in North Belfast there is a red line that catholics can not cross to be housed.

Within the lower Oldpark  in North Belfast decent houses lie empty within a so called ‘Protestant’ area while Catholics wait years for decent homes. Sadly both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have bought into this approach in order to maintain what little remains of the Good Friday Agreement..

We warned then in 1998 that a vote for the GFA  was a vote to continue to sectarianise the northern statelet but the Socialist Party in its wisdom called for and voted yes for that Agreement. They did this despite  recognising that  the Good Friday Agreement 

And their reasons for calling for a yes vote do not stand up.

“no” vote would have strengthened the camp of sectarian reaction and would have put the peace process in jeopardy.”
They failed to distinguish between peace and “the peace process.” The peace process was a clear strategy by the British to halt, hinder and destroy the continuing republican resistance to British rule in Ireland. By endorsing the peace process they endorse that strategy.  
Denying the existence of reality is not the way for a socialist organisation to behave. Rather than oppose sectarianism they have in effect reached an accommodation with it .  They pay lip service to the national question  but never have actually engaged in any activity that could be identified with issues arising from the national question. Rather they have settled for  James Connolly in words and William Walker in deeds!

It needs to be spelt out clearly that sectarianism has a real material basis.
"Sectarianism is not a superstructural phenomenon floating free of an abstract economic base which in turn is divided into classes. In Northern Ireland sectarian divisions is a material reality which has been constituted and re-constituted throughout the history of capital accumulation and class struggle as a whole. It is not merely an overlay on class divisions to be to be seen as something which is either more or less important  than class. Asa material reality it has a history embedded in colonisation industrial revolution and the emergence of new class forms under capitalism. 

Note especially the phrase  “embedded in colonisation, industrial revolution and the emergence of new class forms under capitalism.”
It is this that the passive left chooses to ignore rather that admit the reality. 

Rather than accept the fact that the northern state is institutionalised bias and that the sectarianism has a real material basis they spin a false narrative. They give a totally inaccurate picture of what is actually happening to justify their simplistic narrative.For example they  have equated a Republican commemoration to Henry Joy McCracken with over six months of loyalist protests sectarian marches and hateful attacks. That commemoration was begun before the start of the loyalist protests and was non contentious in its first year. Its organisers were totally committed to a non sectarian approach. 

But reality must not be allowed to dictate the narrative of  the passive leftSuch a description is a reasonably accurate portrayal of those leftist organisations that suck up to the  trade union bureaucrats pass resolutions at sparsely attended union branches and then claim to have campaigned against repression and the state. Bollocks!  These same leftists would not be seen dead on an actual serious protest against repression of republicans or indeed anyone who poses a threat to the state.
What was it Lenin said?

“Social-Democracy leads the struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of labour-power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the working class, not in its relation to a given group of employers alone, but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organised political force. Hence, it follows that not only must Social-Democrats not confine themselves exclusively to the economic struggle, but that they must not allow the organisation of economic exposures to become the predominant part of their activities. We must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.”(What is to be done)
Yes, take up the political education of the working class. How can you take up that task if you consistently distort reality.  Homeless North Belfast Catholics are discriminated against when it comes to housing. To call campaigns against that “sectarian” is to pander to the lowest level of loyalism. It also alienates catholic workers from these self confessed socialists. That is no way for “leninists” to behave.

Lenin was very clear as to what the political education of the working class was to be.

It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically oppressed (any more than it is to explain to them that their interests are antagonistic to the interests of the employers). Agitation must be conducted with regard to every concrete example of this oppression (as we have begun to carry on agitation round concrete examples of economic oppression). Inasmuch as this oppression affects the most diverse classes of society, inasmuch as it manifests itself in the most varied spheres of life and activity — vocational, civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc., etc. — is it not evident that we shall not be fulfilling our task of developing the political consciousness of the workers if we do not undertake the organisation of the political exposure of the autocracy in all its aspects? 
Furthermore he was very specific,
In a word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct “the economic struggle against the employers and the government”. It cannot be too strongly maintained that this is still not Social-Democracy, that the Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat. 
Can this be any clearer? The issue of housing has been sectarianised by those who run the state. To highlight that issue and to campaign against it is in the real traditions of the revolutionaries who have gone before us.  You can not fool the working class by pretending that there is no discrimination taking place.
Nor can you win people to the banner of socialism if you call efforts to highlight discrimination 'sectarian'.
Gerry Ruddy

Ireland , it is often said, was a far different place in the 19th century than it is today in the 21st . This observation with the slightest examination can be seen not to be strictly the case. It is true that fashions in the current era and architecture are far different than those back in the 19th century but principally in everyday life in many aspects nothing has changed. 

Poverty despite all the technological advancements still exists and the fear of homelessness is as prevalent today as it was in the days of Charles Stewart Parnell. It may be true to say that in twenty six of Ireland's thirty two counties the British army are no longer on the streets and laws are passed in Westminster no more for this part of the island of Ireland. In this respect it would be argued for apologists for the status quo things are different. 
In these modern times we have Irish bailiffs and sheriffs backed up by Irish Policemen and soldiers, equipped with an Irish courts warrant to come and throw us out of our homes, pretty similar to what occurred regularly in the 19th century.
Back in the 19th century evictions of people from their homes, particularly though not exclusively, in rural Ireland were common place.
People were evicted from their farms regularly and the landowners knew that there were plenty of others who would bid for the unfortunate victims farm and home. Charles Stewart Parnell back in 1880 addressed a meeting in Ennis, County Clare, and reached a point in his speech on the question of what to do with a man who bids for a farm from which people had been evicted? 
Somebody from the crowd shouted out “shoot him!” to which Parnell replied 
I think I heard somebody say shot him! But I wish to point out to you a very much better way—a more Christian, and more charitable way, which will give the lost sinner an opportunity of repenting. When a man takes a farm from which another has been evicted, you must show him on the roadside, when you meet him, you must show him in the streets of the town, you must show him in the fair and the market place, and even in the place of worship, by leaving him severely alone—putting him in a kind of moral! Coventry, isolating him from his kind like the leper of old—you must show him your detestation of the crime he has committed”. (The History Of The Irish Working Class Peter Berresford Ellis P. 158-59)

In this oration Parnell gave expression and application to the Greek word “ostracism”, an idea also adopted by the English trade union movement. The method of “ostracism” had been mentioned and mulled over quite regularly in those days among the leaders of the Land League and three days after Parnell’s speech at Ennis the Irish gave their own word for “ostracism” in English, the word was boycott.
A petty landowner called Charles S. Boycott who was also the land agent of the Earl of Erne. He managed the Earls large estate in Co. Mayo. The Earl himself lived on a large 31,000 acre estate in Fermanagh and had not been in the vicinity of Mayo for years. He left the day to day running of his estate to Boycott. On September 22 1880 Boycott sent his bailiff in to evict his tenants, this brave man and his accomplices’  were guarded by police in case they met anything like equal opposition. The tenants attacked the bailiff and drove him to seek shelter in Lough Musk House. On September 24th 1880 all of Boycotts servants left his employ with all the estates farm labourers. In the village of Ballinrobe all the shopkeepers, the laundress, blacksmith and other day to day service providers refused to serve Boycott. In desperation the good Captain wrote to the London Times appealing for help to save his crops.
19th century orangemen.
His prayers were answered, or so he thought, on November 11
th when fifty Orangemen from the province of Ulster arrived led by six Ulster landowners to work Boycotts land. With them came ten servants, what today would be termed “scabs”. This motley band were accompanied by 200 troops of the 76th
regiment and another 400 from the 84th regiment; 200 troops of the 19th Hussars, two companies of the army service corps, ambulances etc. The people “shunned” the procession and even though they saved Boycotts crops worth £300 the total cost of the operation was £3,000. This kind of expenditure was unsustainable and Boycott left for England within a few days, the people had won.
Let us now leap forward 133 years to 2013 where similar occurrences are still happening. On Wednesday 25th September 2013 on pages 6-7 of the Irish Daily Mirror  the headlines read “WE’LL FIGHT ALL THE WAY” referring to a man and his family been ordered to vacate their home. 
Martin O’Sullivan has been ordered to leave the house he shares with his wife Clare and three young kids. The family who have a loan with Start Mortgages were told to vacate their semi-detached property by September 16th but anti-eviction protesters flocked to support them yesterday’
The newspaper article continues ‘a 30 strong protest group called Independent Resistance came from across the country and created a protective ring around the house in Kanturk, Co. Cork, so the sheriff could not evict the family’
The article describing Mr O’Sullivan’s plight finishes with a statement from one of the groups legal advisors, Mr Noel Walsh ; ‘We have a family here who are trying to pay their mortgage but are being thrown out instead. We can’t allow this to happen to families across the country’.  The similarities between this case in Co. Cork and those which occurred in the 19th century, which the boycott instance is but one, are there for all but the willingly blind to see. Once again people power is proving its worth as it did in the case of Captain Boycott. 
Of course any such victories laudable and encouraging as they are only represent short term gains within the system of capitalism.
This is NOT to say don’t participate in such demonstrations because it is essential people DO take part and show support as I’m sure Mr O’Sullivan will testify. The next time you hear some TD crying crocodile tears about the poor Irish suffering under the tyrannical landlords in the 19th century, probably citing their own ancestors as victims, but refuse to lift a finger to change the plight of 21st century equivalents then, as Parnell advised, “SHUN THEM”
Kevin Morley            

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Red Plough
Vol. 4-6
August 2013

The national question is a social question

Friday 9th of August the forces of loyalism directed by the UVF and the Belfast Lodges of the Orange Order took over the main street in Belfast, Royal Avenue to block an anti-internment march. They rioted attacked the police, burnt cars and tried to attack the marchers. 

The background to all this was the decision of a number of republicans to form an anti-internment group to highlight the continuing harassment and jailing of republicans without due process of law. Secret courts secret documents are all used to put away those whom the British see as threats to the institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement. Marian Price was unjustly kept in jail for a number of years simply for holding up a piece of paper. Stephen Murney is still in jail for taking pictures of police harassment and Martin Corey does not yet know why he was re-arrested and has spent three years in jail.

The march was labelled by the media as a dissident march. It was not. It was a march comprising republicans, democrats, civil liberties supporters. Comprising several thousand strong it was a disciplined march despite being attacked by loyalists and  twice blocked by the PSNI and re-routed. Noticeable absent from the march were Sinn Fein and the small socialist sects. They, no doubt held their noses and called the march a sectarian march. One participant of the march subsequently wrote the following 

"It was also evident that there were no socialist currents either on the parade or around the fringes.  They have abandoned all thought of unfulfilled democratic tasks in pursuit of socialism for today, or rather what they consider to be socialism.  The assessment they make of the recalcitrant republicans is one they hold in common with hired pundits who work for the capitalist owned press; that they are dreadful atavistic nationalists whose time has thankfully gone.

I don’t really share this mode of thought because it is too undifferentiated; all of the recalcitrant republicans are not unthinking militarists. ‘The Irish News’ referred to all involved as ‘dissident republicans’ but it was certainly more diverse than that expression suggests. Today basic democratic rights are being shredded all too readily, the prospect for socialist advances are very poor in both Ireland and Britain and politics at this time of austerity is favouring the right wing rather than the left wing – just look at the advance of UKIP compared to the abject failures of the socialists to the left of the labour Party."

Perhaps those sects who claim some affinity to the ideas of Leon Trotsky would care to read what the Fourth International Theses on Ireland 1944 said about the struggle for democratic rights,

"By bringing into the clear light of day the full, unimpeachable facts on every case of arbitrary search, arrest and intimidation; by demanding full facilities for inquiry into every case of alleged police intimidation and brutality; by spreading information regarding the unsanitary overcrowded conditions under which political prisoners live; by opposing the farce of the police-influenced Internees’ Appeals Tribunal; and, in short, by making a public display of samples of the British “democracy” being meted out to hundreds of Ulster citizens, a Civil Liberties Council has a revolutionary role to perform."

And there was no mealy mouth equivocation about the national question

"The fundamental tasks of nationalism awaiting the solution of the approaching revolution are: (1) the healing of the sectarian breach; (2) the winning of national independence from British imperialism; and (3) the ending of partition. These form an inseparable trinity. None are realisable as isolated aims in themselves, or possible of attainment except by means of the socialist revolution. Conversely, the socialist movement can turn its back on the problems of nationalism only at the price of prostration before capitalism; for a proletariat divided within itself cannot seize power. National tasks and social tasks are thus inextricably woven together.

The national question IS a social question and, moreover, one of the largest magnitude. Hitherto, the prevailing tendency has been to regard the intrusion of Orange and Nationalist banners into the arena of the class struggle as a complication of an exclusively detrimental nature to the labour movement; as a plague of ideologies, in fact. Most certainly this judgement holds true under all circumstances so far as Orangeism is concerned. On the other hand, the unsolved national question – which is not at all a religious sectarian issue from the standpoint of the nationalist workers – is not necessarily a brake upon the class struggle but, under favourable circumstances, can act as a dynamo upon it, causing violent accelerations of tempo.

Finally, the best Irish nationalists will always be Trotskyists; for Trotskyism’s conceptions of international solidarity and socialist co-operation alone correspond to the national needs of the Irish people. An isolated proletarian dictatorship, even assuming it were not militarily overthrown, could not in the long run prevent a resurgence of sectarian disunity; for ideology cannot take the place of bread indefinitely. With the prolongation of hunger and poverty the wheels of the revolution would begin to revolve backwards. It is only within a system of world socialist economy that the unity of the Irish people will become indestructible for all time."(my emphasis)

Almost 70 years on  those words still apply. The democratic and the social questions in Ireland are so intertwined that they can not be separated. Any approach from socialists which ignores the continued  repression or pays lip service  to fighting that repression by passing pious resolutions in union meetings, knowing that nothing will happen, is to betray the working class. 

Loyalism and republicanism are not two sides of the same coin-sectarianism. 

One is reactionary, pro-imperialist with a strong racist and anti-catholic bias running through it, favouring repression against any democratic forces word wide and taking the side of reactionary regimes world wide. The other is anti-imperialist, favours democratic reform, opposes repression not only in the meeting halls but on the streets, and sees itself as part of an international struggle against tyranny.

Of course it is not a simple black and white analysis. Some  Republicans and Republican groups  have committed sectarian acts and have been repressive. There are also those within loyalism who hold progressive views on a wide range of issues. Nevertheless  the general analysis remains true.

The sectarianism that appeared on the streets of Belfast that night and many other nights over the past couple of years is the direct consequences of the sectarian nature of the state. The northern statelet was set up as bastion and power base for unionism to perform its main role-the defence of British Imperial interests. 

While Britain is no longer the power it once was its essential instinct is to always side with Unionism against Republicanism. hence the recent call by the British overlord, Theresa Villiers 
 for Sinn Fein to call off their march in Castlederg.
There will no such call  any contentious loyalist/orange/unionist parades.

Nevertheless the current situation holds both dangers and opportunities for progressive forces. Sectarian hatred has been stroked up on both sides both by events and by political organisations. Republicans must resist this sectarianism and avoid doing any thing that allows reactionary forces to wipe up hatred. The discipline, and unity involved in the anti-internment march must act as a model for future events. But beyond that there needs to be a coming together of the left with the republican left to map a way forward. While this may seem unrealistic at this moment it is up to the small forces of Marxism in Ireland to  advance the correct strategical approach that will allow for the building of a mass labour movement, that is the only force that can complete the national question on the basis of the 1944 Theses.


Too long, aye! Far too long, have we, the Irish working people been humble and inarticulate. The Irish working class are beginning to awaken. They are coming to realise the truth of the old saying

‘he who would be free must strike the blow’.” Jim Larkin

We in Ireland are living through the “decade of remembrance”. Most commemorate events, associated with Republicanism or Unionism, that happened 100 years ago.But yet every year in every decade the North endures an annual ritual of loyal orange parade celebrating the Protestant Ascendancy.
The face of Ulster Loyalism
Mostly the Catholics either go on holiday or sullenly watch, hemmed in behind police lines as hordes of loyalist mobs chant sectarian and racist insults. Republicans too have their annual celebrations for the Easter Rising, the hunger strikes, Wolfe Tone's anniversary etc. 

Already we have had the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant. Most of these celebrations have in Ireland pitted one “side” against the “other. History has always been used as a weapon to keep workers divided against each other rather than unite to oppose their exploitation at the hands of the ruling classes.
However there are occasions, (sadly too few) when bitter class warfare breaks out exposing the real nature of the ruling classes. These are definitely events that need to be commemorated celebrated and learnt from.

One such occasion 100 years ago was the 1913 lockout in Dublin. Most political activists know that the two outstanding leaders during the lockout were James Larkin and James Connolly but of course the real heroes were the workers themselves.

Dublin in 1913 was very unlike Belfast in that it had no real industrial base. However Dublin less industrialised than Belfast had nevertheless established a Trade Association in 1867 fourteen years before Belfast did. For some Trade unionism itself was seen as a foreign importation, especially by employers, Churches and extreme nationalists.
Unemployment was rife and work mainly casual in Dublin. The ruling classes had abandoned inner city Dublin for the outer areas so by 1913 inner city was a vast slum. One third of the population lived in city centre tenement slums, where overcrowding squalor and terrible sanitation along with poor diet gave Dublin probably the highest infant mortality rate in Europe

Little had changed in the 70 years when this was written

“Dublin-rent and split-worm eaten, mouldering, patched and plastered-unsightly to the eye, unsavoury to the taste and not very grateful to the olfactories-here there is but one step from magnificence to misery from the splendid palace to the squalid hovel” Page xx1-Lock out-Dublin 1913 Padraig Yates-Gill and Macmillan 2001)

Life was a daily struggle to survive, rates of alcoholism, prostitution and violence were all high. The older craft and skilled trade unions were conservative in outlook uninterested in organising the unskilled. Since the 1880’s a number of attempts had been made to organise the unskilled and semi-skilled workers who had been traditionally excluded from the mainly British based craft unions.This was known as “new unionism”.

However it was the arrival of Larkin in 1907 that saw the new unionism establish deep roots among the workers. A fiery orator and a believer in militant industrial action James Larkin was syndicalist in outlook.
Although he quickly organised workers for the National Union of Dock Labourers all around Irish docks, he quickly fell out with the Union General Secretary James Sexton (a former member of the Fenian brotherhood) and was imprisoned on the word of Sexton for allegedly misusing union funds for a strike in Cork.

Far from damaging his reputation, his spell in jail made him a hero for the small socialist left.

"We have amongst us a man of genius, of splendid vitality, great in his conceptions, magnificent in his courage".
James Connolly
Released he established the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, at the beginning of 1909. 

The leaders, Jim Larkin and James Connolly
concentrated on organising the unskilled workers. Already Belfast had seen the 1907 dock strike which united Catholic and Protestants together in common struggle. In 1911 Wexford, in 1912 Galway and in early 1913 Sligo all saw militant action by the unskilled. The ITGWU rapidly became the largest trade union in Ireland.Larkin’s use of the sympathetic strike had managed at least to bring back in 1913 the purchasing power of the wages back to the level at the turn of the 20th century.
New unionism in Ireland was part of an international upsurge in class struggle in both Europe and the USA. Thus it is no accident that imperialist rivalry over the wealth of the world led directly to the 1st World War and the unleashing of a rabid nationalism, that operated in the interests of the Imperialist powers and turned worker against worker.

New unionism hit Dublin like a wave in 1913. From January to August that year there were 30 major disputes the vast majority of which involved the ITGWU affecting among others coal merchants, iron foundries, and biscuit factories. The employers decided to fight back.
Their leader was 
William Martin Murphy
William Martin Murphy who although described as a good employer, his workers had sometimes to work17 hours a day, in a harsh disciplined regime, with a culture of bullying and informing. Murphy was President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, and as an Irish Nationalist and former MP. was actually closer to Sinn Fein thinking than that of John Redmond’s Irish Party. The employers strategy had been predetermined in July of 1913 when over 300 of them had decided their response to the new unionism.
When the ITWGU members brought trams to a halt on August 26th Irish capitalism responded in brutal fashion. 
1/Workers suspected of membership of the ITGWU were dismissed. 

2/Scabs were imported from Britain.

3/The media, controlled by Murphy launched denunciation after denunciations against Larkinism.

 4/The Catholic Church took the side of the employers as usual denouncing Larkin himself as an atheist, a Protestant and a Communist.

5/The legal authorities included people like Police Magistrate E G Swifte who was a substantial shareholder in the DUTC and who dealt with cases arising from the Lockout. 

6/The full force of the power of the state in the guise of the police and military was turned against the poorest working class in Europe.

They in turn responded with mass pickets attacks on scabs and self protection for the strikers after two workers were killed by police baton charges.There was a meeting to be addressed by Larkin in the centre of Dublin.. The Police banned it. They then baton charged those who assembled. Hundreds were injured in the baton charge and subsequent violence. Both James Nolan, James Byrne and Alice Brady paid with their lives for being on the side of the workers. An ITGWU official was found dead after being tortured in a police cell. A female worker bring home a food parcel was shot dead by a strike breaking scab.
John Hill, secretary of the Boilermakers’ society addressing workers Dublin in 1913.

The female suffrage paper the “Irish Citizen” expressed concern at the plight of women workers locked out by Jacob’s and their families. It says,

‘A conflict which suddenly throws out of employment over 600 girls cannot fail to be of deep concern to all who are interested in women’s conditions of work’.

It reminded its readers that Larkin had always promoted women’s rights, and contrasts his position with that of John Redmond, who refused to seek votes for women in the promised Home Rule parliament.

On September 2nd, 1913: Seven people die when two tenements, No 66 and 67 Church Street, collapsed. The dead include four children, including six year old Elizabeth Salmon. Her 17 year old brother Eugene, died when he tried to rescue her. Salmon was one of the  workers locked out by Jacob’s.”

From August until January 1914 over 20,000 workers with about 80,000 dependants resisted in the bitterest and largest union dispute in Irish history before suffering a terrible defeat.

But valuable lessons were learnt not merely by militant Irish workers but by workers world wide.

In October 1913 speaking from Liberty Hall Connolly announced his intention to organise and discipline a force to protect workers meetings and to prevent thugs and police from breaking up their meetings. Larkin was also to announce a few weeks later a similar plan. Speaking to a mass crowd of workers, Larkin said

“I would advise the friends and supporters of this cause to take Sir Edward Carson’s advice to the men of Ulster. If he says it is right and legal for the for the men of Ulster to arm why should it not be right and legal for the men of Dublin to arm themselves so as to protect themselves.” (page 21 Lock out-Dublin 1913 Padraig Yates-Gill and Macmillan 2001)
However it was only when Larkin left for America and Connolly took up the position of General Secretary of the Irish Transport and general Workers Union in October that the full potential of the Army was exploited. 

Connolly was a serious revolutionary, not a bombastic orator who played the crowds for cheap cheers. His attitude is well summed up here.

"If you or anybody else expects that I'm going to waste my time talking ‘bosh' to the crowds in Beresford Place for the sake of hearing shouts-then you'll be sadly disappointed. I would rather give my message to four serious minded men at any cross roads in Ireland and know that they would carry it back to the places they came from and that it would fall on fertile ground and bear fruit for the future."(Robbins 1977 page 27.)

On the 19th of November 1913 Larkin and Connolly founded the Irish Citizen Army, arguably the first Workers Army in Europe. It consisted of over 350 men mostly union members and outlasted the Lockout.
It was no idealistic and romantic concept 4
that drove the Citizen Army on. Rather it was the hatred of a system that had working people without holidays and who lost a day's pay on bank holidays. To organise in the unions was considered almost worse than subversive. The ICA played a heroic and socialist part in the 1916 Rising while realising that that those with whom they were fighting with (i.e. advanced nationalists) would one day be their class enemy.
Connolly and Larkin had no illusions about nationalists nor about their leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party. William Martin Murphy, was a former Home Rule MP at Westminster.The Irish Parliamentary Party represented the interest of the large farms, the small and large shopkeepers and native Irish capitalist interests. While appalled at the violence unleashed by the Dublin police they had no love for Larkin, Larkinism, Connolly or the working classes both urban and rural. Indeed James Connolly had in his writings and agitation made a clear distinction between nationalists and advanced republicans

“Although venting his anger against the nationalist parties in Ireland, Connolly nevertheless made a clear distinction between nationalists such as Redmond (leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party) and anti-imperialists or “advanced nationalists” such as Maud Gonne and Arthur Griffith, realising that
“the Irish Nationalist even with his false reasoning, is an active agent in social regeneration, in so far as he seeks to invest with full power over its own destinies a people actually governed in the interests of a feudal aristocracy.”(. Connolly, Socialism and Nationalism, 34.)

The 1913 lock out was a clear example of the hatred of the ruling class for the workers. In their despair after defeat, many people enlisted in the British Army and indeed more Irish people died for Britain in the First World War than either fought or died for Irish freedom in the same period. In the aftermath of the war of independence and the bitterness against all things British it was understandable that those Irishmen who died in British uniforms were all but forgotten.
But the 1913 Lockout should not be seen as unfortunately some on the left see it, as a purely economic struggle divorced from politics. It was in essence a very political struggle against a background of a reactionary alliance in the north resisting the establishment of Home Rule and advocating the partition of Ireland. In Europe meanwhile the Second International originally committed to oppose war, capitulated to the forces of chauvinism and began to support the war efforts of their own bourgeoisie.

But in a small country dominated by the then greatest imperialist power in the world the weapon forged in the 1913 lockout, the Irish Citizen Army,
upheld the
fundamental principles of Internationalism. They participated in the 1916 Easter rebellion. For some on the left this participation is an embarrassment. A recent publication by a small left wing group in Ireland on the 1913 Lockout fails to mention the role of the ICA in the 1916 rebellion. They fail to see the correctness of Connolly’s position.Tactical alliances are necessary in the struggle for national liberation and Connolly and the ICA had no illusions about the class nature of their allies in 1916. 

Who expects to see a “pure revolution with the good guys (workers) on one side and the baddies (capitalists)on the other?. Reality is much more complex than that!

James Connolly, with Larkin gone to the USA, at the outbreak of the World War had no easy options. He came from a tradition of socialism that had preached a gospel of discontent against the ruling capitalist class. Workers were to rise against their own ruling class in the event of an outbreak of war between competing Imperialistic powers. This attitude was best summed up in the slogan,

"Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains."

The Irish labour movement emerged along side a strong strand of nationalism, which perceived its interests separate from the ruling British state, whilst an equally strong unionist ideology developed amongst those who were most industrialised.

The relationship between labour and both these competing ideologies was therefore bound to be complex. Did labour ignore the national conflict and recruit on the basis of bread and butter issues or was it to subordinate the political aims and objectives of the working class to a broad multi-class alliance? Connolly was put in the latter camp by the modern school of revisionists and unionist apologists. However he did not accept that choice. It was neither bread and butter issues nor subordination. He had a clear unequivocal position that the cause of labour was the cause of Ireland.
In essence he was saying that the working class had the only true objective interest in completing the national revolution. The bourgeoisie was so tied in by commercial and industrial links that any form of separation that occurred between Britain and Ireland would be in the long term interests of the that class unless the working class took control of the revolution and transformed the relationship between the imperialist power and its colony. He saw little difference in his enemies during the lockout and those whom the Citizen Army fought in 1916. They were all part of the same rotten capitalist system that was sacrificing millions in the mud of Flanders for imperialist gain.

James Connolly was a battler for his class, a theoretician , an organiser a trade unionist and a teacher. That he died, shot by the soldiers of an imperialist power is to his credit, not to his shame.
His summing up of the consequences of the Lock-out is well worth recalling .

“From the effects of this drawn battle both sides are still bearing heavy scars. How deep those scars are, none will ever reveal. But the working class has lost none of its aggressiveness, none of its confidence, none of the hope in the ultimate triumph. No traitor amongst the ranks of that class has permanently gained, even materially, by his or her treachery. The flag of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union still flies proudly in the van of the Irish working class, and that working class still marches proudly and defiantly at the head of the gathering hosts who stand for a regenerated nation, resting upon a people industrially free."

The lock out firmly put the Irish labour movement firmly into the mainstream of Irish society.Trade union membership grew rapidly from then on until the early 1980’s. Sadly however the mainstream leaders of that movement have over the years since 1913 betrayed their own movement. Repeatedly the labour movement endorsed coalitions with the right wing Fine Gael Party and today a split Labour Party endorses the austerity programme aimed at pauperisation  of the working class while filling the coffers of the bankers speculators and builders.
Trade Union leaders speak on the Lockout
Most of the issues confronting the working class in 1913 still exist today. 

After 20 years of social partnership in the South there 
is still no 

legislative right for union recognition.  Today over a million people live in deprivation. Yet their stories will not make the papers because it is not in the interests of the elites who run society. It is only by withdrawing consent to being exploited, by  withdrawing consent to pay off the bond holders bankers and builders that the ordinary working class people of Ireland working through the broad labour movements can make a difference.
Only the emergence of a mass labour movement under the control of he working class itself can turn back the tide of austerity.

Capitalism learns from its mistakes. Today it is much more subtle- “trade unionism is old fashion,” “times have changed” we need to modernise etc. All the soft language doe not hide the reality-capitalism is a brutal system driving down the living standards of the majority of people. Those Union leaders who talk about sectional interests are in reality talking the talk of betrayal and capitulation to the wage cuts of Croke Park One and Two.

North and South it is in the interests of all workers to struggle for such a goal for that is the only way to liberate us all from the shackles of a cruel demeaning and utterly corrupt economic system that prevents us all from achieving our full potential.