1940s >> 1949 >> no-539-july-1949

The Founding of The Socialist Party of Ireland

The most noisy, most applauded or most spectacular events in history are not necessarily the most important. Many organisations that have left a deep imprint on the path of social development have had extremely modest beginnings. That is particularly true of working class organisations. The shallowness of working class pockets prevents any sort of elaborate display when a few workers come together to lay the foundations of an organisation which will be the instrument for achieving their aims. Socialist parties are far from being an exception.

On May 28th and 29th of this year, in a room of the home of a Belfast socialist, a group of workers from Dublin and Belfast met and decided to form “The Socialist Party of Ireland.” Their object is identical with the object of the S.P.G.B. and they have adopted the S.P.G.B. declaration of principles. That constitutes them a companion Socialist party with those that already exist in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and in Great Britain.

There was no show, no fuss. Just a group of workers knowing what they wanted and getting together to argue out the details. Once they had decided to form the new party they got straight down to business and went out on to the street with their platform to issue their first challenge to Irish capitalism. There is nothing sensational about the proceedings and our Irish comrades will certainly not hit the headlines in the newspapers of Eire and Northern Ireland.

The position of the Socialist Party of Ireland looks peculiar to us viewed from this side of the Irish Channel. One part of the country is governed from Dublin whilst the other remains under British Government. The attitude of our Irish comrades to this “double-state” set-up is clearly stated in a leaflet issued by them on the occasion of the formation of their party.


“This question has proved a fatal stumbling block to all the reformist parties. The capitalists (British and native) have found it convenient for the purpose of distracting the attentions of the worker from an ever more evil border—the class barrier between those ‘who own but do not produce’ and those ‘who produce but do not own.’ While the Southern capitalist—for the benefit of the Nationalist worker—hurls invective and abuse at ‘British Imperialism’ he is not immune to an investment in the sweated labour of suffering natives in the British South African Gold Mines, or any other ‘good’ investment, British or otherwise. Nor is the ‘Ulster’ capitalist any more ‘patriotic’; a dividend of 15 per cent. in Eire is preferable to one of 12 per cent. in ‘ Ulster.’
“Nor is this the only thing they have in common: they (both Eire rancher and ‘Ulster’ linen-lord) have a common interest in concealing from the workers the ‘great money trick,’ and they would readily unite in face of a threat from Socialism. In a word, apart from any ostensible quarrel, they are class-brothers with a common interest: THE EXPLOITATION AND SUBJECTION OF THE WORKING CLASS, EVERYWHERE.
“To talk of uniting on ‘political questions’ with any section of this exploiting class is, therefore, sheer nonsense. Why should we, for example, at the cost of alienating one section of our own class, make common front with reactionary Nationalist elements, the native petty-bourgeoisie, the landed gentry, the ex-imperialists and Fascists who’d prefer a dog, of any nationality, to an Irish Socialist? Why help to change a flag and leave the old enemy, capitalism, with its poverty and exploitation and its CLASS BORDER? Why should Socialists assist a clique that even now are eager to speculate with the blood of Irish workers in the markets of international catastrophe?
‘‘There is only one way to remove Borders— borders of class, race, or ideology—and that is through the medium of Socialism. The excuse of Irish Labour leaders—who are not of course opposed to class society —that they must ‘clean up the national question’ before they attune the minds of the people to social (?) questions is so much political eyewash. No matter what means they employ, other than Socialism, they CANNOT solve ‘the Irish question.’ Certainly they might banish the Customs huts and oust Stormont but the Border in the last resort is one of ideologies.
“The ‘national’ State is an anachronism that will have no place in a Socialist world and we hold that the Irish workers’ struggle should be in conjunction with the struggle of the workers internationally, against the international border of class and privilege, AGAINST CAPITALISM—FOR SOCIALISM.”


As must every genuine Socialist party, the S.P. of I. stands in opposition to all other political parties, whether they be Labour parties, Communist parties or the avowedly pro-capitalist type. We cannot do better than quote again from the aforementioned leaflet:


   “Recently in N. Ireland we have witnessed the shifting of Nationalist Labour support from the N.I. Labour Party to the Irish Labour Party, and the decision of the former body to accept the constitutional status quo. While the wranglings of these reformist parties are of little interest to Socialists and make not the slightest contribution on the part of either body to the cause of Socialism, they have served as a practical pointer to the CONSPICUOUS ABSENCE OF A GENUINE SOCIALIST PARTY IN THIS COUNTRY.”


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   “The reformist Labour parties fail miserably because of their basically unsound economic premise. Applying themselves to the treatment of EFFECTS, they leave untouched the CAUSE of poverty, insecurity and war: CAPITALISM.
   Capitalism has developed the economic resources of the world to that extent where Socialism, from the economic standpoint, is a practical possibility NOW. The only barrier is the lack of a Socialist majority, organised for the conquest of political power and the establishment of the Socialist system of society. Consequently we consider that the task of Socialists, and the Socialist Party, is to use all means at their disposal for the making of Socialists. We contend that it is impossible to change society through the medium of reforms, and that the change to Socialism must be effected at the base of society, which is the ownership of the means of production (at present in the hands of the capitalist class). To convert these means of living into the common property of society and to create a classless and wageless society where ‘each will give according to his ability and take according to his needs ’ is the only true perspective of Socialists.”
We are pleased and encouraged to welcome the Socialist Party of Ireland to the group of internationalist parties that are striving for the establishment of Socialism. We urge all Irish workers who are interested, to contact the new party either at its Dublin or its Belfast address. These addresses will be found on the back page of this issue of the Socialist Standard. Workers who agree with the object and declaration of principles, also on the back page of this paper, whether they reside in Eire or Northern Ireland, should apply for membership to the nearest branch. Any such worker who lives at a distance from one of the established branches will be enrolled in what is termed “Central branch” which caters specially for those circumstances.


W. Waters