Articles on Labour History -
reprinted from the archives of the Socialist Party

Updated with several 'new' pieces - Oct. 9th

This collection was started on June 12th 2004, we will build it up as time permits. The majority of articles will deal with Irish Labour history, but a few others, such as reviews of important books, such as The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, and others, will be included.

Articles in order by (roughly) the period they deal with.

Pre 20th Century

1798 - myth versus reality The 200th anniversary of the 1798 United Irishmen rebellion has inspired an astonishing amount of published material and commemorative events. From republicans, claiming 1798 as the birth of their tradition; to the Orange Order, re-enacting the Battle of the Diamond which resulted in their establishment in 1795. TOM CREAN, from the National Executive of the SP, looks at the real legacy of 1798 for the workers' movement today. Socialism Today, produced by the cdes in Britain, No. 34, January 1999.

The Land League - Mass movement of rural workers and tenant farmers

Tom Burns writing in Militant Irish Monthly, No. 76, Sept. 1979

The organised Labour Movement should try to win the small farmers to its banner. Their problems and the problems faced by rural labourers result from the capitalist system with the banks and industrial monopolies run for the profit of a small minority. One hundred years ago, Michael Davitt, leader of the Land League, tried to link the struggles of urban and rural workers and tenant farmers. In this article Tom Burns describes the history of the Land League and its relevance today.

Early 20th Century

1907 - Belfast on the brink of revolution

Manus Maguire, reprinted from the 1983 pamphlet, Ireland, Socialist Reprints

1907 marked the first major confrontation between the forces of labour and the forces of capital in Ireland. The Belfast dockers' and carters; strike of that year saw the emergence of the working class onto the scene of history as an independent force. Read the article...

The Belfast Linen strike of 1911

Reprinted from the 1983 pamphlet, Ireland - Socialist Reprints

Conditions for working class people in the Belfast of 1911 were horrendous. Wages were low, lower even than in Britain. Only Dublin workers were paid less. Work was scare and unsecured. Malnutrition was widespread and serious illness and disease rampant in the working class districts. Read more here.

Dublin the 1913 Lockout

An article by Pat Smyth, from September 1983, is now available. Read more here....

Irish Labour history Part 1: The rise of the General Unions John Sinclair, Militant Irish Monthly, No. 42, April 1976

The Irish Labour Party was set up by the decision of the Irish Trades Union Congress at its 1912 conference in Clonmel. Congress represented 70,000 organised workers. James Connolly proposed the motion to set up the Labour Party. Jim Larkin was the main supporting speaker. The Labour Party grew out of the trade union movement to represent working people. Read the rest here...

Read the rest here...

The Origins of Irish Labour

Part 2: The struggles of the early 1900's John Sinclair, Militant Irish Monthly, June 1976, No. 44

The 1898 Local Government elections were Labour's first big step forward politically. Workers now had the vote in local elections. Labour Electoral associations sprang up all over Ireland. Read the rest here...

Read the rest here...

1919 strike: Interview with Ted Brown, veteran Belfast socialist
Militant Irish Monthly, April 1976, No. 42.

Ted Brown: I was born in a working class are in Belfast. Read more here...

Connolly in America

James Connolly and the United States, written by Carl and Anne Barton-Reeve.

Reviewed by Niall Kelly, Galway, Militant Irish Monthly, February 1980.

James Connolly and the United States covers the years from 1902 to 1910 spent by Connolly in America. It is a welcome publication covering a period of Connolly's life which is still largely unknown to most people, even those active in the Labour Movement in Ireland and almost completely ignored by American labour historians.Read more here...

James Connolly

Bill Joyce, Militant Irish Monthly, No. 44, June 1976

James Connolly (1868-1916) is one of the outstanding figures in the history of the socialist movement. Born of Irish parents in Scotland, Connolly was active as a leading participant in the labour and trade union movement in both Ireland and America, where he helped organise the 'Wobblies' In Easter 1916 he commanded the insurrectionary forces in Dublin, for which action he was executed by firing squads at the order of the British authorities.

His work, Labour in Irish History (1910) is a Marxist analysis of events in Ireland since the 17th century, in particular the struggles of the common people. Read more here...

1976 article on the Easter Rising


October 1932

When the Falls and the Shankill United Socialist Voice Oct. 2002, By Ciaran Crossey

Trotsky in Norway 1935-36

By Laurence Coates , Offensiv, (Swedish CWI paper), 2000 An article on the time Trotsky spent in Norway after being sent into exile by the Stalinists. Read more of this piece...

Moscow Trials - a river of blood

Pat Smyth, Militant Irish Monthly,October 1986 On the 15th of August 1936 the government of Stalin announced to the world that two of the great leaders of the Russian Revolution, Zinoviev and Kamenev, were to be tried with 14 others on charges of terrorism and treason. It was to the first savage part of a political purge that was without precedent in world history. Read the rest here...


O'Neill Years: When Labour threatened Unionist rule

By a Militant reporter, Militant, July-August 1990

The former Stormont Prime Minister (1963-69) Terrence O'Neill died in June. There was a torrent of eulogies from the capitalist press and politiciansRead more here....


1982 Health Dispute Strike showed power of workers unity

'Today the sleeping giant of Labour has re-awakened in Belfast.' Thus Jimmy Blair, leader of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, exclaimed to over 7,000 workers in a packed Grosvenor Hall in Belfast on September 22nd 1982.

Written by Micky Duffy, Secretary North and West Belfast, Joint Shop Stewards Committee-Health Unions, Militant, May 1986. Read the rest of this important article here.

General Articles

The Communist Manifesto - 'A handbook for every class-conscious worker'

Finn Geaney, (Dublin Trades Council Executive - personal capacity)

Militant, March 1988

140 years have passed since Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto. Read more here

Markievicz - an inspiring woman

Diana Norma's book - Terrible Beauty A life of Constance Markievicz reviewed by Ruth Coppinger in Militant, September 1988

Only two people spoke in the entire debate on the Treaty which confirmed Partition in 1922, on behalf of the Irish working class. One was Liam Mellowes, the other was Constance Markievicz. Read the rest of Ruth's book review of this.

Irish Women Workers Union: 75 Years of Struggle

Review of These Obstreperous Lassies - A history of the Irish Women Workers Union, written by Mary Jones, published by Gill and Macmillan, 1988. Reviewed by FBWU Jacobs in Militant, April 1989

Death of Nimrod Sejake News has reached us, June 18th, that Nimrod Sejake, a comrade from South Africa, died last week. He had been a political activist for over 50 years, suffering repression, exile and hardship for most of that time. After decades in exile Nimrod ended up in Ireland where he joined with us in the Militant, fighting for Marxist politics here and internationally. With the easing of restrictions Nimrod went back to South Africa in the early 1990s where he got involved with the S African section of the CWI. Here is an initial obituary comment by a cde in Belfast, we will follow this up later with a full obituary, and an interview he did with the Swedish cdes in 2000.

Workers' Power and the crisis of leadershipNimrod Sejake writing in Inqaba ya Basebenzi, the journal of the Marxist Workers' Tendency of the African National Congress, No. 12 Nov. 1983 - Feb. 1984.

This piece has a number of biographical notes about his experiences in building Marxism in Southern Africa in the 1950's and 1960's. He also deals with broader questions of interest to S African workers and others, such as armed struggle versus mass struggle, etc.

We send out condolences to his family, friends and cdes in South Africa and internationally. He will be missed.

Marxism and Labour in Ireland

Finn Geaney, Militant, Feb. 1979

In the period since the defeat of the Coalition Government in 1977, the ranks of the Irish Labour Party have been loudly calling for socialist policies. Resolutions demanding the nationalisation of the banks and the finance houses, sections of the building industry and of all land zoned for housing have been carried at National and Regional conferences. A leftward shift is now again becoming dominant. But another factor is also entering the situation. The direction in which the Party is moving is not just a re-run of the 'Sixties.

The banner of Marxism is now being increasingly raised. The Marxist tradition within the Irish Labour Movement was pushed to the side. Not only during the years of Coalition, but almost from the time of James Connolly's execution in 1916. The thread of history cut then is now being re-tied. Read more here.

A painter's tale - The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, by Robert Tressell

Reviewed by Martyna Quirke, Dublin South East YS, in Militant, Jan-Feb. 1982

'On the rack of profit - Children of the Dead End, written by Patrick McGill

Reviewed by Pat Smyth, Militant, Nov-Dec. 1982. While this is a novel, it is autobiographical, giving a graphic portrayal of conditions of migratory workers at the time, pre World War 1. It justifies a place in this Labour history area.

Life and Times of Eleanor Marx

Review by Norma Prenderville of Eleanor Marx, Vol.'s 1 and 2, by Yvonne Kapp in Militant Irish Monthly, June 1985

The story of Eleanor Marx deserves to be widely known. It is the moving story of a strong minded, courageous and independent woman who devoted her talents and energies, throughout her life, to the socialist cause. Read the rest here...