1920s >> 1927 >> no-278-october-1927

The Irish elections. More Communist trickery

Exit China, enter Ireland ! With the complete failure of all their anti-working class policies in China, and the consequent passing of enthusiasm about Chinese troubles, the Communist Party of Great Britain now turns its attention to Ireland. It has been offering the Irish workers advice in order that the latter may know how to manage affairs in the very successful way that the Communists have managed their own affairs over here, and Chinese affairs in China.

In the recent Irish elections there have been numerous parties soliciting the support of the electorate, and a working-class organisation taking upon itself to offer advice would naturally make it its duty to point out clearly which party, if any, had a policy which is deserving of working-class support. Given the existing political confusion, clearness is above all to be aimed at by those who would teach the workers how to emancipate themselves. How, then, did the Communists perform this elementary duty?


There were several opposition parties :—
The Republicans (De Valera);
The National League (Redmond);
The Labour Party (Johnson);
The Irish Worker League (Larkin);
The Workers’ Party of Ireland (Communist Party).

Of these, the first two, like the Government Party (Cosgrave), are frankly Capitalist, while the remaining three make special appeal to the workers.

In the Sunday Worker (September 11th) edited by the Communist W. Paul, is an article by another Communist, Jack Carney, weighing up the two largest parties led by Cosgrave and De Valera respectively. He dismisses them as the representatives of two Capitalist groups, and says “Behind De Valera stands the American banker, and behind Cosgrave the British financier.”

They differ, like our Liberal and Tory parties, over the question of tariffs. The Capitalists behind De Valera use the catch cries of Republicanism to further their own interests by means of “high protection,” De Valera admitting in an interview (Manchester Guardian, June 27th) that this would, in his opinion, mean a “less costly standard of living” for the workers. He boggled at the words “lower standard of living,” but a careful and repeated reading of his subtle attempt to differentiate fails to disclose any difference whatever between the two descriptions of his party’s aim.

The Labour Party’s policy, as outlined by its leader Johnson, in The Irishman (May 14th, 1927), has no more to offer the workers than has De Valera’s. They, like the Republicans, advocate protection and lower taxes on capital invested in Ireland, and while asking for numerous trivial demands which are on the programmes of all parties, such as “the provision of employment” for the unemployed, they even go out of their way to repudiate expressly the nationalisation of the land, factories, etc. As the Worker’s Life (Communist Party of Great Britain) correctly points out, “The (Irish) Labour Party has degenerated into a Liberal Party pure and simple” (September 9th).

It is interesting to recall also that immediately after the last election in June of this year, the Labour Party first offered to support the Government Party, and their offer being refused, then secured the support of the Republicans and the National League in a tricky manoeuvre which was to have elevated them to office. This shows how little in principle separates them from these other three avowedly Capitalist parties.

Similarly, just before the last election, De Valera’s Republicans and Cosgrave’s party demonstrated their fundamental agreement on the maintenance of Capitalism by mutual gestures of reconciliation. Thus, in reply to Mr. Cosgrave’s “I am prepared to forgive and forget,” Mr. Sean Lemass, for the Republicans, said, “We are prepared to forgive …. If he wants a political truce with Fianna Fail he can have it to-morrow.” (The Republic, September 17th). A step further towards reconciliation took the form of a joint meeting of party leaders immediately following the election.

The Workers’ Party of Ireland (Communist) has aims exactly like those of the English Communists. The Irish Workers’ League was formed by Larkin immediately before the election, and has a policy indistinguishable from that of the Workers’ Party of Ireland.


We have already mentioned that in the eyes of the Communists the Irish Labour Party is “Liberal, pure and simple.” Yet in face of this the Worker’s Life (September 9th), and the Workers’ Party of Ireland (Official Statement “How to Vote”) tell the Irish Workers to vote for Labour candidates. They do not explain why workers should support a “Liberal Party” which calls itself “Labour” and not support a “Liberal Party” which calls itself “Liberal.”

Gallacher, Stewart and Saklatvala, members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, were over in Ireland officially supporting Larkin’s “Irish Worker League” (Irish Independent, September 13th), which was also supported by De Valera’s Republicans. (See Sunday Worker September 11th). Thus we had the Communists and the Republicans associated in support of Larkin despite the fact that the Communists themselves admit that “Behind De Valera stands the American banker” (Sunday Worker, September 11th). Thus Mr. E. Cooney (Republican candidate) told his supporters, “I hope, after voting Fianna Fail that you will give your next preference to Jim Larkin, for he stands for militant Irish Nationalism just as much as Fianna Fail.” (Irish Independent, September 13th.) In return, Larkin declared, “We are appealing to the workers to vote for Fianna Fail ….” (Sunday Worker, September 11th).

But although Larkin’s Communist supporters were telling the workers to vote for the Labour candidates, Larkin himself admitted that his object was primarily to down the Labour Party, and particularly its leaders. It was known in advance that he was almost certainly debarred from taking his seat.

He said :—

“We have got them on the run. … 1 can promise you that next Thursday night Johnson’s political career is closed in Ireland. . . . We are out fishing in dirty waters. We may not catch much salmon, but . . . we are going to drown three political worms, maybe more.—(“Sunday Worker,” 11/9/27.)

To make confusion worse confounded, the Workers’ Party of Ireland (Communist) which supported Larkin and ran no candidates of its own, not only told the workers to support Labour candidates, but also told them to vote for Republicans and National League candidates. Thus, in Dublin City (North), it supported a list of 4 Republicans, 2 Labour candidates, 1 Larkinite, and 1 Redmondite, and in Dublin South it sup¬ported 4 Republicans, 1 Labour candidate, and 1 Larkinite (“How to Vote.”). This same leaflet “How to Vote,” while supporting the Republicans, says, “The Republican Party is equally as capitalistic in its outlook, representing the smaller Capitalist elements.”

Last of all, it actually declares in the first and last lines respectively of the same paragraph, “Therefore vote against the Free State candidates,” and “only give your last votes to the Free State candidates.”


If, therefore, any unfortunate Irish worker listened to his Communist advisers, he would have been told (1) by Larkin, to vote for him and for the Capitalist Republicans (De Valera), and to help smash Johnson;: (2) by the Irish Worker Party to vote for Larkin, for Johnson, for the National League, for De Valera, and lastly for the Cosgrave (Government) Party; (3) by Saklatvala and company, to vote for Larkin and the Labour candidates, although Larkin’s party and the Labour Party are alleged by Larkin to be irreconcilable enemies, and although they themselves know the Irish Labour Party to be “Liberal pure and simple.”

This is what they call practical politics !


One did not need to be a prophet to know that the election results would show Irish Capitalism triumphant, and since no Socialist candidate was in the field it was equally easy to foretell that none would be elected. Much preparatory work has yet to be done before such an event can be considered within the bounds of possibility.

In conclusion, a little comic relief is provided by contemplating Larkin. Although his chequered past shows him to be one of the most audacious charlatans who have ever preyed on the Labour Movement in any country, there is one person at least who has a good opinion of him, that is Larkin. In his election address he writes modestly about himself :—

“In one year alone …. James Larkin (Jim Larkin) forced the employers to increase wages to the extent of £127,000 in one year.”

During the election, much use was made by Larkin of the name of Connolly. It is therefore to the point to recall Connolly’s considered judgment of Larkin. In a letter to William O’Brien, dated May 24th, 1911, Connolly wrote :—

Do not pay any attention to what Larkin says …. the man is utterly unreliable—and dangerous because unreliable.”—(see p. 162 of “Report of Actions in the Law Courts,” published by Irish Transport and General Workers Union, 1924.)

Larkin is no less dangerous now than then, a fit companion for the muddle-headed British Communists who support him and his Capitalist Republican allies.


(Socialist Standard, October 1927)

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