Book Review: Irish Republicanism

The Republic of Ireland, by D. R. O’C. Lysaght. (Mercier Press. 21s.)
This book claims to start where James Connolly’s Labour in Irish History left off. Whatever else can be said of Connolly’s book, at least it was easy to read and understand. The same cannot be said of Lysaght’s which is written in a peculiar style and is often repetitive.
Lysaght traces the origin of the Irish State and its subsequent political evolution: how Ireland’s wealthy classes originally supported those who were in favour of the 1921 Treaty with Britain against the Republican opposition: how in the 1930’s they transferred their allegiance to the Republicans in De Valera’s Fianna Fail which remains to this day Ireland’s normal governing party: how the old Republican policy of protectionism has now given way to an Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area and a desire to join the Common Market.
Lysaght claims to be a Socialist, but is rather some kind of a trotskyist. His immediate aim is “the Workers’ Republic of Ireland”. He does not pretend, as some of its advocates do, that this is the same as Socialism, but is forced to admit that

  In the fullest sense, it won’t be ’Socialism’, but, then, that will only appear as the last stage of social development but one and on an international scale.

(The last stage presumably is ‘Communism’, suggesting that Lysaght accepts the false socialism/communism distinction).
The full Republican programme — an All-Ireland Republic politically and economically independent, particularly of Britain — has yet to be realised and is in fact impossible. There has always been a disagreement in Irish opposition circles as to what should be their immediate aim. In 1919 the Irish Labour Party adopted the slogan “First the Republic, then the Workers’ Republic” and this is still essentially the policy of Sinn Fein, the IRA and various Communist and Maoist groups “partly because”, Lysaght suggests, “their numbers are certainly too small to achieve Socialism under present circumstances”. He, however, is no more logical since he can only argue that the immediate struggle should be for the Workers’ Republic rather than for Socialism on the same sort of grounds as those he criticises argue for the Republic rather than the Workers’ Republic.
The World Socialist Party of Ireland, set up in 1950, argues that workers in Ireland should be striving neither for an All-Ireland Republic nor for a Workers’ Republic, but for Socialism. We too realise that this can only exist on a world scale and so can only be achieved by the workers of the world co-operating to establish it. We are thus opposed to all other groups who deny that world Socialism should be the immediate objective of workers in Ireland and other countries.
Lysaght admits that the Irish Labour Party stands for state capitalism, but argues that socialists should work within it because “it is the largest explicitly proletarian-based party in the country”. This is a familiar argument which has been utterly discredited in relation to the British Labour Party, but there is one very significant difference in the way this case for joining Labour is presented in Ireland. Lysaght cannot argue that the Labour Party is the mass workers’ party, but has to introduce the word “explicitly”. This is because, as he himself points out, the majority of Irish workers support the governing party Fianna Fail and about as many support the main opposition Fine Gael as support Labour. The Labour Party should be opposed precisely because it stands for state capitalism, not to mention its record as part of the 1947 and 1953 “inter-party” governments.
Adam Buick

Leave a Reply