I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized A Revolutionary Janus

A Revolutionary Janus

Padraig Yeates
The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party, by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, Penguin Ireland, 688 pp, £20, ISBN: 978-1844881208   This book is the best so far on Irish paramilitaries and radical republicanism. It is essential reading for everyone on the Irish left, a small constituency granted, but one that is growing once more in the current crisis.   The book’s main practical value is as a case study in “how not to build a revolutionary party” – or any sort of party for that matter. At the height of its influence the Workers Party had seven TDs, and when they all left, except for founding president Tomás Mac Giolla, to form Democratic Left it enjoyed a brief social democratic flowering as part of the Rainbow Coalition, led by Fine Gael’s John Bruton. That coalition also included the Labour Party. After Dick Spring retired there was something of a reverse takeover, when DL merged with Labour. Democratic Left leader Proinsias De Rossa served as Labour Party president initially and Ruairí Quinn was eventually succeeded as Labour leader by Pat Rabbitte and then Eamon Gilmore. Another WP veteran, Liz McManus, served as deputy leader of the Labour Party.   For an organisation which had grown out of the moribund republican movement of the 1960s and the political violence of the early 1970s it was a remarkable achievement. The party’s evolution was marked by a series of name changes, from Official Sinn Féin in 1970, to distinguish it from the Provisionals, to Sinn Féin The Workers Party in 1977 and just plain Workers Party in 1982. It was all the more remarkable given that its political programme evolved in the process into something akin to that of a home-grown communist party, with a sophisticated critique of the ills afflicting Ireland North and South. At one stage it looked as if it might overtake Labour as the main party of the left and it actually did so in Dublin during the 1980s.   However the amalgamation of the two main parties of the Left followed the defeat of the Rainbow Coalition and exclusion from power for twelve years drained it of any immediate benefits from the potential synergies of the alliance. Another reason for the diminished impact of DL on Labour was simply that the activists of the 1970s and 1980s were getting old. They had…

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