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.

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Steadfast Comrade

Brian Kenny
Sean Murray: Marxist Leninist and Irish Socialist Republican, by Sean Byers, Irish Academic Press, 250 pp, €22.45, ISBN: 978-0716532972 A small farm in rural Antrim is not the first place you would look to for the birthplace of a man who would become a key figure in the Communist Party in Ireland. Sean Murray was born in 1898 in Cushendall and over a forty-year period he devoted all of his adult life to the development of the party in his home country, a party which Sean Byers claims has “influenced the trajectory of the labour and republican movement and left a significant imprint on Irish cultural and intellectual life”. Byers, in his detailed and impressively researched biography, charts Murray’s involvement from his early years, when his IRA activism in the North led to him moving to Britain and joining the Communist Party of Great Britain ( CPGB). That combination of nationalism and communism, reflected in the book’s sub-title, was to be the “twin-track” approach which Murray tried to combine during his long involvement in left-wing and communist activity. It was to challenge and bedevil his political career until his death in 1962. Byers’s account of Murray’s early years in the communist movement are particularly interesting. Through his involvement in the CPGB Murray was sent to the International Lenin school in Moscow in 1927. The school was set up to educate foreign activists and “Young Jim” Larkin was another of its prominent students. The students were schooled in political economy, labour history and Marxism. Seventy-two hour weeks were the norm and Murray and “Young Jim” were required to produce a hundred-page Marxist pamphlet on conditions in Ireland. This was then translated into Russian and seven thousand copies produced. Not the kind of print run Murray and Larkin would have been used to at home. The Lenin school saw Murray, Larkin and other students involved in rows, grillings and disputes, but Murray also found time to marry a local woman, giving us a rare glimpse into his personal life, which he kept private. For reasons which were unclear Murray’s wife could not accompany him back home and his love life had to be sacrificed for the cause. The 1930s was a decade of left-wing activism, both in Ireland and internationally . Murray returned to Ireland as a paid organiser and with the task of setting up a communist party. Under the auspices…



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