Glossary of the Left in Ireland, 1960 TO 1983, by John Goodwillie, Gralton, Aug/Sep 1983

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(The following is taken from an article by John Goodwillie which appeared in issue 9 of Gralton, Aug/Sep 1983. It was a supplement to a family tree of the Left which John created , and which I posted a couple of weeks ago here. Apologies in advance to John Goodwillie for copying and posting his article.)

These notes attempt to record the leftwing organisation which have existed in Ireland since 1960. No attempt has been made to record purely local organisations outside Dublin and Belfast, or microscopic groups which have never reached double figures. The larger organisations have been presented in more detail. This should be regarded as something of a working document: any corrections or clarifications will be welcome and printed in a future issue.

Anarchist Bookshop Collective – short-lived group in the 1980s who can be regarded as successors to Dublin anarchist Group and predecessors of Dublin Anarchist Collective.

Anarchist Workers Alliance – formed 1978. A libertarian Marxist organisation formed by ex-members of the Dublin and Belfast anarchist groups. Ceased to function in 1982.

Belfast Anarchist Collective – formed 1978. Disbanded as an organisation in 1983. (Link to copy of their publication, Anarchist Worker, on Cedarlounge here.

British and Irish Communist Organisation – changed name from Irish Communist Organisation in 1971. Initially made an impact with its “two nations theory”, but support declined after it adopted other uncommon positions. Members participated in Campaign for Labour Representation in the North and Democratic Socialist Party in the Republic.

Campaign for Labour Representation – formed c.1978 with the participation of members of the British and Irish Communist Organisation to campaign for the extension of the British Labour Party to northern Ireland.

Communist Party of Ireland – reformed 1970 with the amalgamation of the Communist Party of Northern Ireland and the Irish Workers’ Party. Although it failed miserably in every election contested, it did have some influence within the trade union movement. Ideologically it remained friendly to Moscow.

Communist Party of Ireland (Marxist-Leninist)
– Maoist organisation which changed name from Irish Communist Movement (Marxist-Leninist) in 1972. (Link to copy of publication, Red Patriot, on Cedarlounge here.)

Communist Party of Northern Ireland – formed 1941 when the then Communist Party of Ireland divided between North and South due to their differing situations with regard to the War. Despite a surge of support at the end of the war, it never made a large impact except within the trade union movement. Merged into the Communist Party of Ireland in 1970.

Connolly Youth Movement – formed 1965, it has always been dominated by the Communist Party of Ireland (originally Irish Workers’ Party).

Democratic Socialist Party – formed in 1982 as an amalgamation of the Socialist Party and the Limerick Socialist Organisation together with members of the British and Irish communist Organisation. It lost its only seat in the Dáil with Jim Kemmy‘s defeat in 1982.

Dublin Anarchist Collective – formed 1982, mainly by former members of the Anarchist Bookshop collective. (copy of their publication, Resistance, here.)

Dublin Anarchist Group – formed 1978. Ceased to function in 1979, but most members were later involved in the Anarchist Bookshop Collective.

Independent Socialist Party – formed c.1976 as a replacement for the Irish Committee for a Socialist Programme. Known for the membership of Bernadette McAliskey it was never more then a small group and ceased to function around 1978.

Internationalists – formed in 1965, initially broad-based but soon becoming openly Maoist. Established Irish Communist Movement (Marxist-Leninist) around themselves in 1969.

Irish Committee for a Socialist Programme – formed in 1976 as a left-wing and anti-militarist breakaway from the Irish Republican Socialist Party. Replaced (that year?) by the Independent Socialist Party

Irish Communist Group – formed in 1964 mainly among emigrants, as a successor to the Irish Workers’ Union. Following the secession of the Stalinist section in 1965 to form the Irish Communist Organisation, the Trotskyist remainder changed their name to the Irish Workers’ Group.

Irish Communist Movement (Marxist-Leninist) – Maoist organisation formed in 1969 as a development of the Internationalists. Sponsored the formation of the Communist Party of Ireland (Marxist-Leninist) in 1972.

Irish Communist Organisation – formed in 1965 as a Stalinist breakaway from the Irish Communist Group. As a result of the developing situation in the North, it formulated its “two nations theory” and changed its name to the British and Irish Communist Organisation in 1971. (Copy of one its publications, The Communist, on Cedarlounge here.

Irish Democratic Youth Movement – Youth movement of Sinn Féin (Official), later Sinn Féin – the Workers’ Party

Irish Marxist Society – formed in 1976 when advocates of Eurocommunism broke away from the Communist Party of Ireland. Ceased to function after most of them joined the Labour Party in 1977 (?).

Irish Republican Socialist Party – formed in 1974 as a breakaway from Sinn Féin (Official), advocating a more active military policy and a more radical socialism. It was become more noted for the battles between the linked Irish National Liberation Army and the Official IRA and for the assassinations of its successive leaders Séamus Costello and Miriam Daly, than for its political activities, although it has won two seats on Belfast Corporation.

Irish Revolutionary Youth Movement – youth movement of the Irish Communist Movement (Marxist-Leninist)

Irish Workers Group (Mark I) – changed name from the Irish Communist Group in 1965. An organisation in the Trotskyist tradition, it ceased to function in 1968 following the secession of the League for a Workers’ Republic, but many of its members were already involved in the labour parties of the Young Socialist Alliance.

Irish Workers Group (Mark II) – formed 1976 following a breakaway from the Socialist Workers’ Movement in the direction of a more rigorous adherence to Trotskyist doctrine. Close relations with the British Workers’ Power group.

Irish Workers’ League – formed 1948 when the Communist Party of Ireland had divided on a north/south basis in 1941. It changed its name to the Irish Workers Party in 1962.

Irish Workers’ Party – changed name from the Irish Workers’ League in 1962. The major communist organisation in the Republic, it achieved little except some influence in the trade union movement. It merged into the Communist Party of Ireland in 1970.

Irish Workers’ Union – formed c.1960, some of the members coming from Saor Uladh, a republican offshoot slightly to the left and more willing to work within state structures. After it ceased to function c.1964, some of the same people were involved in the Irish Communist Group.

Irish Young Socialists – youth movement of the League for Workers’ Vanguard, later Workers’ League.

Labour and Trade Union Coordinating Group – formed in 1974 with the participation of members of Militant to campaign for a mass party of labour in Northern Ireland. Changed name to Labour and Trade Union Group in 1979.

Labour and Trade Union Group – changed name from Labour and Trade Union Coordinating Group in 1979. With the participation of members of Militant, worked for a mass party of labour in Northern Ireland.

Labour Party – formed 1930 by the division of the Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress into its constituent parts. Throughout the period the Labour party has been the largest organisation numerically (possibly rivalled for some time by Provisional Sinn Féin): this does not imply any great level of activity on the part of its members, who are obviously heterogeneous in the level of activity and commitment. The election of Brenden Corish as leader in 196o was followed by a cautious move leftwards and the adhesion of a radical layer of intellectuals. This development was helped by the entry of the National Progressive Democrats in 1963, which raised Dáil strength to 17. But the 1969 general election was outwardly disappointing, reducing strength from the 22 of 1965 to 18, despite the vote increasing from 15.4% to 17%. The aftermath was the adoption of a coalitionist policy in 1970 and the departure of moderate left-wing elements. Through the period of the Cosgrave coalition (1973-77) and the first Fitzgerald coalition (1981-82) and the Fianna Fáil governments the party vote steadily declined, and seats declined from a peak of 19 in 1973. The 1977 election also saw an outflow of left-wingers.

Labour Youth – formed in 1979 as the youth movement of the Labour party. Militant quickly established itself as the dominant influence.

League for a Workers Republic
– formed 1968 as a hard Trotskyist breakaway from the Irish Workers’ Group. Affiliated to the Organising committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International (known as Lambertists, and now Fourth International: International Committee for Reconstruction). Played an important role in the young socialists, and following the failure of the Socialist Party alliance re-oriented itself to the Labour Party in 1976. Some members participated in the Socialist Labour Party in 1977-78.

League for Workers’ Vanguard – Trotskyist organisation formed 1970 as a breakaway from the League for a Workers’ Republic on the basis of support for the International committee of the fourth International (known as Healyites). Changed name to Workers’ League c.1971.

Left Alliance – an alliance between the Communist Party of Ireland, Sinn Féin (Official), and the Liason Committee of the Labour Left. Formed in 1975, it produced two economic manifestos and operated quietly in various areas but collapsed in 1976 because the participants had other priorities.

Left Revolutionary Group – formed 1976 as a breakaway from People’s Democracy on the basis of stronger support for the military struggle and an analysis of the Loyalists as facist. Quickly changed its name to the Red Republican Party.

Liaison Committee of the Labour Left – formed 1971 to re-group those left-wingers in the Labour Party who had not defected to the socialist Labour Alliance. Collapsed in 1977 when the majority of leading members participated in the events which led to the Socialist Labour Party.

Militant – formed in 1972 with close links with the British Militant. It has provided a Trotskyist wing in the Labour Party in the republic,and in the North in the Northern Ireland Labour Party and more recently the Labour and Trade Union (co-ordinating) group.

Movement for a Socialist Republic – changed name from Revolutionary Marxist Group in 1976. Trotskyist organisation affiliated to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. Merged with People’s Democracy in 1978.

National Progressive Democrats – formed in 1958 around two T.D.s, Dr. Noel Browne and Jack McQuillan. To the left of the Labour Party, most of their members followed their T.D.s into the Labour Party in 1963.

New Earth – formed 1973. An anarchist group composed mainly of x-members of Official Sinn Féin. Ceased to function in 1975.

Northern Ireland Labour Party – changed name from the Labour Party of Northern Ireland in 1927. Since 1949 in favour of the union with Great Britain. Despite the affiliation of many trade unions, it never achieved a breakthrough, and its showing at elections declined from 4 seats in 1958 and 1962 to one seat in 1973 and 1975. Since then its decline has preceeded apace and its existence is virtually nominal.

People’s Democracy – formed in 1968 around the core of the Young Socialist Alliance, it was a force to be reckoned with briefly as the left wing of the civil rights movement, but soon declined in size and adopted a more definite membership and Marxist policy. Following the merger with the Movement for a Socialist Republic in 1978 it has affiliated to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International.

Red Republican Party – changed name from Left Revolutionary Group in 1976. Ceased to function c.1978.

Republican Labour Party – formed in 1963 around two M.P.s, Harry Diamond and Gerry Fitt. Although it won several seats on Belfast Corporation, it never had much of a party organization. Reduced in size after the departure of Gerry Fitt to the S.D.L.P. in 1970, its remaining M.P., Paddy Kennedy, continued to use the name. The party ceased to function after winning no seats in the 1973 election.

Republican Socialist Tendency – formed within the Socialist Labour Party in 1979 by supporters of People’s Democracy. They left the party altogether shortly afterwards.

Revolutionary Marxist Group
– Trotskyist organisation formed in 1972 as a breakaway from the Young Socialists on the basis of support for the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. Changed name to Movement for a Socialist Republic in 1976.

Revolutionary Struggle – formed in 1975 with a somewhat Maoist tinge, comparable to what are called Autonomists on the Continent.

Saor Éire -formed 1967 as a left-wing breakaway from the Republican Movement with a somewhat Guevarist orientation. Ceased to function c.1973.

Sinn Féin – formed 1908 originally, after the thirties it was no longer a mass movement but had renewed ties with the I.R.A. It lost its four seats in the Dáil in 1961 and in 1962 the I.R.A. called off the border campaign. Sinn Féin began to consider a move to the left, and a reorientation to radical activism took place with an ideology approaching the Communist Party’s. The failure to provide guns in the North and the ending of the abstentionist policy with regard to seats won in the Dáil led to the split between Officials and Provisionals (1969 in the I.R.A., 1970 in Sinn Féin). The Officials, known in the North as the Republic Clubs, continued their movement, increasingly emphasising the winning of parliamentary seats, and changed their name to Sinn Féin – the Workers’ Party in 1977. The Provisionals’ greater emphasis on military methods of struggle brought them more recruits, and their concentration in Catholic working-class areas helped them to begin their open move to the left and their popular support to the contesting of the 1982 Assembly elections when they won 5 seats.

Sinn Féin – the Workers’ Party – changed name from Sinn Féin in 1977. Known in the North as Republican Clubs – the Workers’ Party. While their support in the North was much reduced from that at the time of the split with the Provisionals, support in the Republic was steadily building itself along fairly conventional lines, culminating with the election of one T.D. in 1981 and three in February 1982. Changed name to Workers’ Party in 1982.

Socialist Labour Action Group – formed in 1971 (in preparatory form in 1970), following the coalition decision of the Labour Party conference. Most of the Socialist Labour Action Group joined; People’s Democracy affiliated, as did Saor Éire nominally. By early1972 it consisted of little more than People’s Democracy, The League for a Workers’ Republic with the remnant of the Young Socialists, and the newly formed Socialist Workers’ Movement and Revolutionary Marxist Group. It ceased to function when the S.W.M. disaffiliated on the ground that it had become a mere debating society.

Socialist Labour Party – formed in 1977 following the Independent (anti-coalition) Labour election campaigns. Attracted much uncommitted support and also the League for a workers’ Republic, Irish Workers’ Group, part of the Movement for a Socialist Republic, and the Socialist Workers’ Movement. These groups departed over the period 1978-80. The party has become fissiparous from the beginning, alienating its members for diverse reasons, and eventually dissolved in 1982.

Socialist Party – changed name from Socialist Party of Ireland c.1976, following its adoption of a “two-states theory.” Achieved some localised working-class support. Merged into Democratic Socialist Party in 1982.

Socialist Party of Ireland – formed 1971 as a breakaway from Official Sinn Féin on the grounds that they were still too much of an all-class alliance and that a consciously socialist organisation was necessary. After an effort to build itself as a replacement for the Communist Party of Ireland, it changed its name to the Socialist Party c.1976. (newspaper, Vanguard, October 1971, changes name to Advance in May 1972.)

Socialist Workers’ Movement – organisation in the Trotskyist tradition formed 1971 mainly from elements of People’s Democracy and the Young Socialists, together with the Waterford Socialist Movement (an affiliate of the socialist Labour Alliance), on the basis of orientation to the working class and sympathy with the International socialists (now Socialist Workers’ Party) in Britain. Entered the Socialist Labour Party and dissolved into the socialist workers’ Tendency in 1978. Re-formed in 1980b when the Tendency left the party.

Socialist Workers’ Tendency – formed 1978 in the Socialist Labour Party by the Socialist workers’ Movement. Left the party in 1980.

Socialists against Nationalism – formed c.1980 as an alliance of the Socialist Party, Limerick Socialist Organisation, and British and Irish Communist Organisation. Replaced by Democratic Socialist Party in 1982.

United Labour Party – formed c.1978 around Paddy Devlin as a non-sectarian labour party in the North. Won one seat in the local elections in 1981 despite Paddy Devlin’s departure.

Workers’ Alliance for Action – tendency in the Socialist Labour Party formed in 1978 around the Irish Workers’ Group. Ceased to exist when the group left the party in 1979.

Workers’ League – changed name from League for workers’ Vanguard c.1971. Trotskyist organisation affiliated to International committee of the Fourth International (Healthites). Ceased to function around 1978.

Workers’ Party – changed name from Sinn Féin-the Workers’ Party and from the Republican Clubs-the Workers’ Party in 1982. The major organisation to the left of the Labour Party.

Young Communist League – formed c.1968, youth movement of the Communist Party of Northern Ireland. Merged into Connolly Youth Movement in 1970.

Young Socialist Alliance – formed 1968, involving young socialists oriented to the Northern Ireland Labour Party and others of varying orientation. Acted as core within People’s Democracy before lapsing in 1969.

Young Socialists – various groups of young Socialists formed in Dublin and Belfast and elsewhere in 1967 and succeeding years, with the involvement of members of the Irish Workers’ Group and League for a Workers’ Republic. In Belfast they lapsed after the formation of the Young Socialist alliance; the groups in the Republic formed a national structure in 1970, and after 1972 were simply the youth movement of the League for a Workers’ Republic.


One Response

  1. Gil Hyle

    January 7, 2012 2:20 am

    The entry for the Young Socialists seems wrong here – it misses the point that the Young Socialists were the youth wing of the Irish Labour Party, disbanded by the Labour Party because of the influence of trotskyists on the leadership of the youth wing. The LWR continued to use the name for some years.