Which way for Socialism?
Date:1977
Organisation:Communist Party of Ireland
Publication:Irish Socialist
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

22nd October 2012

This document is almost unique in containing within it different viewpoints from a variety of sources on the Irish left during the 1970s, in this instance on the nature of the Sinn Féin The Workers’ Party document “The Irish Industrial Revolution”. In this respect only one other document in the Archive is even somewhat similar, that being “Patterns of Betrayal”, issued by the Workers’ Party after the split in that party in the early 1990s - which also contained viewpoints from the various elements involved in the split. That said in both instances - and perhaps understandably - the line pursued by the parties that issued the documents is given particular prominence.

The pamphlet contains a review of the Irish Industrial Revolution and both parts of it. This review is highly uncomplimentary. A letter for against the review and for it are also published. The latter was written by Anthony Coughlan. The Sinn Féin view (that is SFWP) is also published, this being written by Eamonn Smullen, then Director of the Department of Economic Affairs in SFWP. To this there is an Editorial Board Reply and a further response from Sinn Féin, in this instance written by Seán Ó Cionnaith, PRO of SFWP. This too is given a response from the CPOI.

Rather than quoting from the individual pieces it is probably most appropriate to consider the Preface which notes:

At the beginning of 1977 Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party issued a contribution to the debate on how to solve Ireland’s economic problems, The irish Industrial Revolution. This document amounts to a massive revision republicanism, in that the role and significance of British imperialism in Ireland is minimised and the national question declared redundant.

And:

The document contains two sections: a review of Irish economic history, which - in the name of Connolly - refutes, or attempts to refute, everything that Connolly stood for; and a section on economic planning, which is unfortunately grounded in fantasy rather than reality.

It notes;

The document, marking as it does a radical break with republicanism, has been welcomed strongly in the two-nationist camp, particularly by the B.&I.C.O.; and the United Irishman in May published a defence of the historical section written by Cormac Ó Gráda, an avowed two-nationist, a lecturer in economics in U.C.D. Described as a professional historian. In March and April, the editorial board of the Irish Socialist published a review of the document. None of the questions raised in that review - questions which relate to where SF stands on important issues such as the E.E.C., the linking of the social and national struggles in the fight for independence and unity, their attitude to British imperialism- have yet been answered. In light of the discussion generated by our review of the document, and the fact that some people have been unable to get copies, the editorial board of the Irish Socialist is reprinting the review, together with the published correspondence which we received on the matter.

And it concludes:

The review is reprinted in a spirit of fraternal criticism without which the political process can only stagnate. Through the pages of the Irish Socialist we will continue to advance a Marxist analysis of the Irish economy, subjecting all proposals for solutions to sharp scrutiny and making our own contribution to the debate on how to break the dominance of Britain and other foreign powers over our country in order to provide employment and material security for our people, in order to build the basis for building a new, a socialist, society in Ireland.

This is well worth reading in tandem with the “Irish Industrial Revolution”. All in all it is an impressive publication that attempts to engage with the chosen topic and although weighted towards the CPOI view enters into some debate and discussion.

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