Archive for the Trade Unions Category

An Irish Citizen Army for the 21st Century

Posted in activism, Ireland, Irish Citizen Army, IRSCNA, IRSM, IRSP, James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Trade Unions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2014 by The Plough & The Stars


The Irish Republican Socialist Movement has the very real potential of fully taking on the role of an Irish Citizens Army for the 21st Century. Connolly’s ICA was Europe’s first ‘Red Army’ and was intrinsically linked to the nascent militant trade unions of the day, taking direct action against employer abuse of workers, scabs, rack-renters et al. More significant was the clause, moved by Larkin, that,

‘Before being enrolled into the ICA, every applicant must, if eligible, be a member of his trade union.”

100 years later the lot of the Irish working-class is steadily regressing, poverty and housing is a disgrace, racism/fascism is raising it’s ugly head and there are more William martin Murphy clones living it up in 2014 than 1914 while we cravenly are told to tighten our belts by hypocritical politicians who spend more on a meal than many Irish families can afford to spend on the annual bare necessities. At the behest of Foreign bankers, foreign governments and global Capitalism working people are as ruthlessly exploited and cast aside, in even more punitive ways as those that have been the hallmark of the hated homegrown Gombeen variety.   Forced ‘austerity measures’ on workers with ‘zero hour contracts’, the shameful decimation of Ireland’s hospitals, public services, destroying Irish lives and the despicable evictions of families from their homes.

Direct actions by IRSP activists against Zionist products in solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza was praised by our comrades in the PFLP

Connollyite National Liberation and Socialism as opposed to Walkerite ‘Gas & Water Socialism!’

Unlike one-dimensional nationalists, such as Provisonal Sinn Fein, whose leadership backed the employers in the Great Dublin Lock-out of a century ago and in contemporary times continue in a similar modus operandi, Republican Socialists, as a genuine Connollyite movement who, in the words of the IRSM’s co-founder, Seamus Costello, primarily  we owe our allegiance to the working class! Likewise, unlike the Brit-centric  Left or ‘2 nations socialists’, the IRSM do not adopt their myopic approach that ignores the presence and impact of British imperialism and view the class struggle and the national liberation struggle as inseparable, in the same approach as Connolly, Larkin, Mellows, Costello and Ta Power.

Without second-guessing any potential overall strategy or tactical directions, it is suffice that as a Marxist revolutionary party the words of both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels strongly influence Irish Republican Socialists:

1) “We have nothing to lose but our chains – we have a world to win!”

2) ” The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point, however, is to change it!”

3) “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory” (F.Engels: Anti-Duhring)

Saoirse go deo!



By Alex McGuigan

The Starry Plough Flag And Irish Republican Socialism

Posted in 'The Troubles, activism, Alex McGuigan, Armed Struggle, Belfast, Class Solidarity, Commemoration, Dublin IRSP, Easter Commemoration, Flags, History, Hunger Strikes, INLA, International socialism, International Womens' Day, Ireland, Irish Citizen Army, Irish National Liberation Army, Irish Republican Socialism, IRSM, IRSP, James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Joe Craven, Kevin Lynch, May Day, Memorabilia, Mickey Devine, Other Republican groups, PFLP/IRSP Solidarity, Political prisoners, Solidarity, The Starry Plough Flag, Trade Unions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars


James Connolly

No symbol is as closely associated with the IRSP and the Irish Republican Socialist Movement as the Starry Plough flag. The modern day Starry Plough flag has seven white, 5 pointed stars, in the shape of the Ursa Major constellation (also known as the Plough of the Heavens or The Great Bear) on a blue background. The Starry Plough flag has been intrinsically linked to Irish Republican Socialism for close to a century, since it’s first use, in April 1914, by James Connolly’s small but famously courageous Irish Citizen Army (ICA). The ICA were a worker’s militia, created to protect Trades Union members and James Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party.

The ICA proudly carried the Starry Plough as they marched through Dublin on the first day of the 1916 Easter Rising. With no short measure of poetic justice, during the Easter Rising, the standard of Republican Socialism flew over commandeered premises belonging to the infamous Capitalist villain, William Martin Murphy. Murphy was the Dublin workers’ class enemy number one, a notorious strike-breaker and chief Gombeen of the Dublin Lock-out of 1913-14!


ICA Plough & Stars flag

The Starry Plough Flag And The 1981 Hunger Strike

The Starry Plough flag in it’s original and modern form has been used by various Republican, Trades Union and Socialist organisations throughout the years and has been carried at parades, marches and demonstrations. However, it was during the tragic Hunger Strikes of 1981, when ten IRA and INLA prisoners gave their lives for the right to be treated as political prisoners, that the Starry Plough flag became very publicly and indelibly linked to the Irish Republican Socialist Movement in the eyes of the world.

During the Hungers Strikes of 1981, the Republican funerals of the Hunger Strikers were beamed to television screens in living-rooms all over the world by the assembled global media. Almost a third of the Hunger Strikers, who bravely gave their lives, were members of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement’s military wing, the INLA. The three Irish National Liberation Army Hunger Strikers, Volunteers Patsy O’Hara, Kevin Lynch and Michael Devine, were all rightfully accorded full Republican Socialist military funerals, even under the most difficult of conditions.

The coffins of the three INLA Hunger Striker’s had both the Starry Plough flag and the National flag draped on them. Arguably, it was from these images, which were broadcast all over the world, that the Starry Plough flag became the publicly perceived flag of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement. Anyone watching the INLA Hunger Striker’s funerals, who saw the prominence given to the Starry Plough during the H-block martyrs requiem ceremonies, would have made the connection in the symbiotic symbolism of National Liberation and Socialism, being of equal importance to the Republican Socialist Movement.

gay plough

 A Brief History of The Starry Plough Flag

The original Starry Plough flag was first adopted by James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army in April,1914. The original design had the symbol of a gold ploughshare, with a sword as it’s cutting edge, with the seven stars of the Ursa Major constellation superimposed upon it, with a green background. This flag is also carried by the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, although the various factions of the Official IRA used it quite prominently as a de facto logo, in the not so distant past. The original Starry Plough was designed as the military ‘colours’ or ‘standard’ of the Irish Citizen Army and this explains it’s slightly oversized appearance when reproduced on conventional flags’ dimensions.  In recent times the Provisional Sinn Fein splinter group Eirigi have to a certain extent re-claimed the ICA version of the Starry Plough flag.

The modern day Starry Plough design, with it’s striking seven white stars, on a blue background, made it’s first appearance during the 1930’s as the emblem of the Republican Congress. The Republican Congress of the 1930s was a Left-wing Republican political construct, created by Peader O’Donell and others in the hope of placing Irish Republicanism on a more overtly Leftist trajectory. Since then, the modern day Starry Plough has been intrinsically and rightly linked to Irish Republican Socialism.

Derry IRSP have an excellent, more in depth history of the Starry Plough flag published online which can be accessed: Here


 The Starry Plough And Irish Republican Socialism

Various Irish Trades Unions have adopted both versions of the Starry Plough or incorporated them into their emblems over the years. The Irish Labour Party at one stage used it as their party logo, on a red background but have since ditched it, along with any pretence at being remotely a Socialist party (and are currently paddling in the murky waters of coalition government with Fine Gael, a party who spawned Ireland’s only Fascist movement, the Blueshirts!)

The Communist Party of Ireland’s youth wing, the Connolly Youth Movement, have used the Starry Plough in their banners. One of the most iconic images from the early ‘Troubles’, showed militant Belfast Official IRA leader, Joe McCann, armed with an M1 Carbine, with the Starry Plough flag flying beside him, at the battle of Inglis’ Bakery, in the Markets area of Belfast. (It has been convincingly argued that had Joe McCann lived, given his adherence to militant Republican Socialism, he would have been one of the Official Republicans who would have joined Costello’s Irish Republican Socialist Movement)

The Workers Party use the early Starry Plough design (which is also known as the Plough and Stars) in their party logo and for some time that version of the flag was closely associated with the Stickies. However, over this past two decades, the original Starry Plough flag has been carried by the Irish Republican Socialist Movement during demonstrations and in Colour Parties, along with the modern, Republican Congress version of the flag – the instantly recognisable 7 stars on blue background.

All contemporary Irish Republican organisations, including Provisional Sinn Fein, Republican Sinn Fein, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and others carry the Starry Plough flag during parades, although it is more for traditional symbolic purposes, than any real political commitment to Connolly’s Marxism. Incredibly, during a Free State army commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising, one of their colour parties, uber inappropriately, carried the original Starry Plough standard of Connolly’s Marxist militia, the Irish Citizen Army! One may very well ask what connection the Free State armed forces could ever claim to have to the Revolutionary Socialist flag of a worker’s militia, the ICA?

red plough 01

The IRSP and the Starry Plough

The IRSP use both versions of the Starry Plough on party logos and sometimes it appears on a red background, for party flags or banners. During funerals for Irish Republican Socialist Movement veterans, the Starry Plough is usually the only flag draped on the coffin, which differs slightly from the era of the Hunger Strikes, when the Irish Tricolour usually accompanied the plough on the coffins of IRSM martyrs. In some funerals of Republican Socialist veterans, such as the funeral of Johnny White in Derry, the Starry Plough and the plain Red Flag of International Socialism, shared equal prominence on the coffin during these sad occasions. During the funeral in Derry in April 2012, of INLA veteran, Seamus ‘Chang’ Coyle, a striking Starry Plough with 7 stars on a red background adorned his coffin on it’s journey to the City Cemetery.


In conclusion, the Starry Plough has been, and will continue to be, the flag most closely associated with the Irish Republican Socialist Movement. The Irish Republican Socialist Party can carry the Starry Plough safe in the knowledge that they are the direct heirs of Ireland’s first Marxist revolutionary, James Connolly. The IRSP endeavour to build the basis of Connolly’s vision of a re-united, 32 County Socialist Republic and they seek to make the Starry Plough the flag proudly shouldered by all Irish workers, irrespective of religious denomination, in the struggle for economic liberty as well as national liberation.  James Connolly’s words written over a century ago aptly differentiate Irish Republican Socialism from the various one dimensional nationalist groupings who insist on the stages credo that ‘labour must wait’

“Ireland, as distinct from her people, is nothing to me; and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for ‘Ireland,’ and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland – yea, wrought by Irishmen upon Irish men and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call Ireland!”

(James Connolly: The New Evangel Preached To Irish Toilers 1901)

 irsm plot

Alex McGuigan, Belfast

The Misuse Of James Connolly

Posted in 'The Troubles, Alex McGuigan, Anti Fascism, Anti-IRSP revisionism, Belfast, Bourgeoisie, Class Solidarity, Community, Dublin IRSP, Easter Commemoration, Fallen Comrades, History, Imperialism, Industrial Action, International socialism, Internationalism, Ireland, Irish Citizen Army, Irish Republican Socialism, IRSM, IRSP, James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Karl Marx, Murals, Polarisation of the classes, Primacy of politics, Proletariat, Reformism, Revisionism, Socialism, Solidarity, Trade Unions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars

It is glaringly irrational for purely nationalist parties in Ireland, notably Sinn Fein, to continue to pretend  to Connolly’s ideological legacy but not surprising given that entity’s flare for revisionism and political opportunism.  It goes without saying that if Connolly were alive in these early years of the 21st Century, he would certainly not be a member of Sinn Fein!

Before anyone makes the habitual statement that no person alive today can really second guess the possible contemporary actions or attitudes of dead revolutionaries, well in James Connolly’s case we can. It is well documented that Connolly during his political life in Ireland was never a member of Sinn Fein, a party that was founded in 1905 and of which he was very much aware of.  Connolly, the Marxist and revolutionary trade unionist would have been diametrically opposed to a party that largely backed William Martin Murphy and the employers during the Dublin Lock-out of 1913.  In actions that would be familiar today, the then Sinn Fein leader, Arthur Griffiths, refused to support the workers movement, describing it as ‘”sectional‘”.  When English trades unionists organised relief ships to help the striking workers, Griffith’s little Irelander hackles were raised and condemned the solidarity action as “an insult” to Ireland.

Sinn Fein And Socialism

James Connolly’s Sinn Fein And Socialism, published in April 1908 in The Harp, which critiques the shortcomings of that party’s one dimensional nationalism, was actually used in true revisionist form by the contemporary party during their hijacking of the centenary of Connolly’s residence in Belfast by quoting out of context the first few lines of the article which welcomes really only the the meaning of the English translation of the term Sinn Fein,

“That is a good name for the new Irish movement of which we hear so much nowadays. Sinn Féin, or in English, Ourselves”.

 Of course, the unlikely Connolly centenary celebrants of anti-Marxist Sinn Fein studiously ignored the rest of Connolly’s article and it’s mesage which is roundly critical of their ideology and pours scorn on their non-socialism and the absurdities of their early Habsburgian/monarchist leanings:

“As we all know the methods adopted by Hungary to reconquer its Parliament from Austria are the trite illustrations of the Sinn Féin orators. In fact during the early stages of the movement in Ireland before the felicitous name of Sinn Féin was coined the ideas as promulgated got the name of ‘the Hungary system’.

I remember one critic declaring that “the Hungary system was only fit for hungry men!”

It could be further added that any perceived ‘praise’ for Sinn Fein, was not for the party but used by Connolly to make the point that the working-class must rely on ‘ourselves’, not the national bourgeoisie (of which Sinn Fein was then a small but component part) who must be swept away so that,

“the era of the strutters and poseurs will end”

Connolly, the Marxist, in complete contrast to the limitations of bourgeois nationalism, ends his article by re-affirming that only the working-class can fight and win the fight for both national liberation and real economic freedom ie Socialism,

“we will realize at last what was meant by Marx when he spoke of the revolt of those who

Have Nothing to Lose but their Chains.”

No Reds In Their Beds!

Therefore, it is very much in the eye of the beholder to decide whether the, at best, nationalist Centrist party called Sinn Fein’s highly tenuous claims to the legacy of the Marxist, James Connolly, are the result of revisionism, political opportunism or a confused ideological compass (or perhaps a combination of the latter two?)

Certainly, it would be the height of irrationalism for a party such as Sinn Fein to attempt to claim the legacy of the Marxist Connolly, when there are such concrete assertations from the present party leader stating:

“There is no Marxist influence within Sinn Fein, it simply isn’t a Marxist organisation.  I know of no-one in Sinn Fein who is a Marxist or who would be influenced by Marxism.”

We saw echoes of this edict recently when members of that party’s youth section condemned Republican Socialist G8 protestors for having the temerity to carry red flags, the symbols of international socialism.  (The youthful McCathyites then camped out nearly 100 miles from the G8, reportedly near the Giant’s Foot [no pun intended] while of course their leadership salivated at the prospect of being permitted to join the chorus line of clapping seals welcoming the most insidious cabal of global war criminals and imperialists to Ireland!  However, the above statement from Adams is a completely rational assertation from a party whose well documented aim is for a unitary Capitalist Ireland that sees no contradiction in gladhanding the world’s most vicious imperialists, such as Obama et al.

History Vindicates Irish Republican Socialism

Ironically for a party who at one stage, using crude reductionism, viewed the modern partitioned 26 counties as a neo-colony of (British) imperialism (a view that was jettisoned during the heyday of the Celtic Tiger), it is now entirely comfortable with a future where Ireland would be a minor cheerleader of Western imperialism as it massacres it’s way around the world in search of oil, commodities and profit.

In conclusion, Connolly’s Republican Socialism, his militant trade unionism, his adherence to Marxism, his membership of the Irish Socialist Republican Party and his rejection of one-dimensional nationalism, are irrefutable and uncomfortable truths for those who have erroneously attempted to hijack his legacy.  The contradictions of these attempts are glaringly obvious for those whose minds have not been befuddled by neo-liberalism’ double-speak nonsense and blatant revisionism. By the same token the ‘gas and water socialists’ of the Brit-centric Left and two-nations ‘socialists’ who choose to ignore the British imperialist elephant in the living room who periodically pay homage to Connolly, conveniently chose to ignore his central tenet that national liberation and true socialism are symbiotically linked.

Today’s heirs of Connolly’s legacy are those who unreservedly adhere to his most oft quoted ‘thesis’ that:

“If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.”

Saoirse go deo!





Alex McGuigan,
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