Irish Nationalism and British Imperialism, by Robert Dorn (DR O'Connor Lysaght), 1973

Communism and the National Question

The Debate on the Irish National Question

Appendix I: Communists on the Nation

Appendix II: Documents of the Left Opposition (YS) and RMG on the Irish National Question

Draft Young Socialist Statement on the National Question
Document C, prepared for the Annual Conference of the YS, January, 1972

The revolutionary movement in each nation must make the revolution in its own area, guided by the method of Scientific Socialism, applied to the characteristics of society within it and without.

Today, revolution is coming on the agenda in country after country, despite the treachery of Social Democrats, Stalinites and other petty-bourgeois leaderships trusted by the workers. Ireland is no exception to this development. Irish revolutionaries must not refuse to play their part in it – both for their own sakes and for those of the workers elsewhere. Their first duty is to analyse their situation the better to formulate a strategy by which they can change it.

Ireland is one of the countries which has not completed the tasks of its bourgeois revolution. This is shown in two main facts – the power of the Churches remains unchecked, and national unity has yet to be achieved. Any proletarian revolution has to take these into account and include the tasks of overcoming them among its aims. The workers' struggle for State power must, if it is to be successful, involve the struggle to complete national unification. At this time, the escalation of the war in Northern Ireland has made the struggle for national unification one of crucial immediate importance.

Some so-called Marxists put forward the industrial struggle as a counterpoise to the national issue. Such an outlook, expressed in practice, can only result in the same type of fiasco that has beset the Irish working class since the murder of Connolly.

Already, after two years of inconclusive fighting in Northern Ireland, there are signs that such a disaster is likely to occur. On the one hand, Kevin Boland has served up his political stew on the single issue of national unity, and has been very successful in his work. On the other hand, various individuals in the Irish working class movement, most notably Conor Cruise O'Brien and the ICO, are putting forward policies of pacifism. These can lead not only to complete collapse in the national, but, through weakening and dividing the workers politically, to their complete defeat in the industrial, struggle.

We insist that, if the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, so too is the cause of Ireland the cause of labour. We declare that, to scab from the present national struggle, even if disguising this action as one of respecting the Ulster Protestant ‘nation’ or ‘nationality’, is as counter-revolutionary as to scab in the industrial field. Its basis is to be found in attempts to ‘tail after’ the politically most backward section of the Irish working class: the Ulster Unionist proletariat. There can be no question of recognising ‘the democratic validity of the Northern Irish state’, nor of recognising the right to self-determination of the Northern Protestant community until the major factors on which its restrictive character is based have been eliminated.

On the other hand, and if the present struggle is defeated, national unification may not be at all time and under all circumstances, the immediate priority for revolutionaries. Other strategies may be needed to begin the decisive fight for workers' state power on an industrial, purely twenty-six county, level, and to spread it, while it processes, into the struggle, for unification.

In the meantime the formula must be: Socialist leadership of the National Struggle. On the one hand the struggle itself must be stepped up to weaken the bourgeois state powers – north and south. On the other hand, it must be given increasingly socialist and internationalist slogans: Opposition to redundancies, the seizure of British and Unionist-owned firms and estates in the south and of all major firms and estates in the areas under the rule of the ‘Parliament of the Streets’, appeals to foreign comrades to co-operate in opposition to British rule in Ireland, as part of their own anti-capitalist struggles, hostility to religious superstition, are some of the weapons in the Socialist's armoury. Above all, the building of a Citizen Army (always necessary before the workers can take power) is now an immediate task, not only to oppose the British, the UVF, the Irish Army and the FCA, but to supersede the petty-bourgeois IRA's.

The Irish National Revolution must be made to grow over into the uninterrupted Socialist Revolution.


Forward to Appendix II, Document D

Back to Appendix II, Document B

Back to Irish Trotskyism



Any constructive comments/suggestions regarding this site? Please direct them to: Matt Kelly