Home > Uncategorized > Discussion Paper:MASS UPHEAVAL During the War of Independence Terrified All Irish Conservative Forces–Pro-Treaty Leaders, Most Anti-Treaty Leaders, The Main Trade Union Leaders.  Labour and Trade Union leaders Deserted  the Connolly Position. 

Discussion Paper:MASS UPHEAVAL During the War of Independence Terrified All Irish Conservative Forces–Pro-Treaty Leaders, Most Anti-Treaty Leaders, The Main Trade Union Leaders.  Labour and Trade Union leaders Deserted  the Connolly Position. 

Discussion Paper

MASS UPHEAVAL During the War of Independence Terrified All Irish Conservative Forces–Pro-Treaty Leaders, Most Anti-Treaty Leaders, The Main Trade Union Leaders.  Labour and Trade Union leaders Deserted  the Connolly Position. 

Support For The Treaty By Trade Union and Labour Leaders Signified a Definitive Going Over To the Side of Capitalism–This has continued ever since!!!

The period 1918- 1922 was a period in which unprecedented social upheaval took place together with the military campaign for Irish independence.  All these processes were linked. Irish independence could only be achieved by ending British rule. As British laws governed economic and political life, grievances of workers, small farmers and small business people could only be eliminated by resisting British rule and combining together to fight its local agents. Any suggestion that the war of Independence consisted solely or mainly of guerrilla warfare with passive support from the population is totally untrue.

General Strike Against Conscription April 2018.

Britain was defeated in its attempt to extend conscription into British Military service to Ireland. Outside of North East Ulster, there was massive participation in the strike and associated events by not only workers but by the general population. This defeat was a huge blow against British Rule. Failure of any state to make citizens wage war on its behalf, means that its rule is extremely insecure. This is even more so in this case as the British Empire, the greatest power on earth, was fighting for its very existence in a World War.

Victory of Sinn Féin in Dec 1918 General Election

Sinn Féin contested the UK wide general election on the base of withdrawing Irish MPs from Westminster and convening an All-Ireland Parliament which would claim sovereignty over the whole island. Sinn Féin polled 46.9% of the vote and almost 70% of the seats in the First Past The Post election. It outpolled the Irish Parliamentary Party by more than 2 to 1. Again, there was enthusiastic mass participation in this new defeat for British interests in Ireland.

The All-Ireland Parliament was convened in January 1919. This led to the Declaration of the Republic and the launching of the War of Independence.

Some of the first shots were fired  in the Sologheadbeg ambush on 7th February 2019.

The Limerick City Soviet which lasted from 15 to 27 April 1919 involved the city being run by the Limerick Trades Council and a local general strike taking place against Limerick being declared a Special Military Area by the British Authorities. Under the military regulations, a large number of workers were required to have special passes to present to military posts in order to be allowed go to work in the city. This followed a failed rescue attempt by the IRA of one of its members who was a senior local trade unionist. The Soviet failed because the ITUC leaders failed to call a country-wide general strike in support. Instead, the union leaders propose that the entire population of the city area leave the city as an act of support!!! Nevertheless, there was wide involvement of the citizens and lessons were learned.


Guerilla warfare was the method used by the IRA in an attempt to end British rule. This form of action relied heavily on popular support-safe houses, information, boycott of the RIC paramilitary police etc.

Creamery soviets,huge  farm  labourers strikes ,factory soviets, Transport strikes against the movement of British troops,  The Great Belfast Engineering Strike of 1919 and much else featured

Membership of the general union ITGWU rose from 5000 in 1916 to 120,000 in 1921!!! 

Great General Strike of 1920

The General strike of 1920 in support of the demands of prisoners including hunger-strikers was the high-point of popular mobilisation in the period. Many towns were ruled for two days by strike committees calling themselves “soviets” as almost the whole of Ireland shut down.

At times treble not just dual power existed in some areas for a time-British power, Republican power, workers power.   The right to property and the right to rule was challenged by the risen people!

The independent Ireland expected could turn out to be a 32-county Workers’Republic!

All forces in Ireland which wished to retain capitalism were terrified by THESE MASS MOBILISATIONS!!

The British authorities concluded that Ireland could not be kept in subjection into the future without an alliance of Britain with the Irish Rich, Green and Orange, expressed through some new Ireland based political institutions

The letter below illustrates the type of thinking taking place in leading circles in Britain.

 Letter to Colonel Arthur Ernest Percival of the Essex Regiment 1923

BL Montgomery(Later Lord Montgomery of Alamein) was appointed brigade major in the 17th Infantry Brigade of the British Army in January 1921. The brigade was stationed in County Cork, carrying out counter-insurgency operations during the final stages of the Irish War of Independence

In 1923, He wrote to Colonel Percival

“My own view is that to win a war of this sort, you must be ruthless. Oliver Cromwell, or the Germans, would have settled it in a very short time. Nowadays public opinion precludes such methods, the nation would never allow it, and the politicians would lose their jobs if they sanctioned it. That being so, I consider that Lloyd George was right in what he did, if we had gone on we could probably have squashed the rebellion as a temporary measure, but it would have broken out again like an ulcer the moment we removed the troops. I think the rebels would probably [have] refused battles, and hidden their arms etc. until we had gone…..


The only way forward therefore (for Britain) was to give them [the Irish] some form of self-government, and let them squash the rebellion themselves; they are the only people who could really stamp it out, and they are still trying to do so and as far as one can tell they seem to be having a fair amount of success.”


Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith concluded a partitioning Treaty with Britain which was in breach of their oaths to the 32-county Republic declared IN 1919. The main republican leaders Devalera, Liam Lynch, Rory O’Connor and others, while disagreeing with the Treaty, refused to mount an immediate political and military offensive against the forces in favour of implementing the Treaty, while those forces remained militarily weak. Devalera proposed a different partitioning compromise(Document number 2). Then instead of using the ensuing general election to mobilise the masses against the Treaty, Devalera agreed a “no contest” election pact with Collins. The Republican military and political leaders feared that a continuation of military conflict would enable mass mobilisation and workers power to grow and become uncontrollable. They avoided action against the Treaty signatories until the Free State with British assistance was strong enough to crush them.  The military leaders paid with their lives for this decision when they were shot or executed. The people paid with poverty and emigration. The people of the 6-counties suffered a vicious right-wing regime with built in discrimination against nationalist in all aspects of life including employment, elections etc. not to mention officially tolerated loyalist pogroms. Unionists who were tolerant of nationalists in any way were treated as disloyal.    Devalera and his followers effectively accepted the treaty when they formed the 26-county only electoral political party, Fianna Fáil, in 1926.

Anti-Treaty republican military leaders colluded with Collins in the Disastrous “Northern Offensive”  1922 against the British Army and the then established 6-county parliament and its official and unofficial military forces.  The diversionary plan by Collins was that the northern IRA divisions would engage the British in completely unequal conventional army against army warfare. Failure was guaranteed but the Free State bought time to strengthen itself before the civil war in the 26-counties broke out.

Labour And Trade Union Movement

But it wasn’t only the Irish Rich north and south who wished to avoid an end to capitalism in Ireland. The Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress which had officially called the great 1920 General Strike, called a pro-treaty general strike in 1922. Officially, it was called a strike against “militarism” from all sides. But in the context, the trade union leaders knew that it would be understood as designed to deter the anti-treaty republican leaders from launching the civil war and to reduce support for them if they did. The trade union leaders had seen that that continued war and mobilisation could lead to workers rank and file groups taking direct power themselves. https://wp.me/pKzXa-1Dq  They had seen the Limerick City Soviet, 1919, the town soviets during the General Strike of 1920, creamery soviets 1922 and much spontaneous industrial action. They wished to remain privileged intermediaries with capitalists. For this they needed capitalism to survive. That was their first principle. To ensure that, the Treaty needed to be implemented and opposition to it defeated.

After the 1920 Strike, the Labour and Union Leaders could have grasped the leadership of the workers and small farmers on an All-Ireland basis.  They should have set up a national representative body of representatives of soviets and active strike committees.  The Irish Citizen army should have been re-organised and expanded.  They should have led the fight against the Treaty with military and industrial action. This would have opened the road to the 32-county workers Republic. Support from workers world-wide should have been sought. That is undoubtedly what James Connolly would have done.  They preferred, in their own interest as trade union officials, that capitalism should survive.

Before hostilities broke out in the 26-county Civil War the Free State forces had been hugely strengthened with British assistance. The anti-teaty forces, despite great heroism were no match for the heavy-weapons and military vehicles of the Free State (Paid “Irish National Army”). All surviving soviets were crushed by the Free State.

Before general hostilities broke out in the 26-county Civil war, The Labour party had contested the “PACT” election in June 1922 and won 17 seats

With Sinn Féin and Devalera’s political forces boycotting the parliament, Labour  took their own seats, and became the official opposition.

They remained on in the parliament protesting powerlessly at the extreme right wing measures being implemented by the Free State regime as the Free State army crushed the remaining soviets.

To remain seated in a parliament on behalf of which the Free State Forces acted was to legitimise those actions, especially since the biggest group of opposition TDs were boycotting the parliament.

The Labour Party must also take responsibility for the execution of the Four Courts Leaders as a reprisal and the total of 81 prisoners executed. The Free State authorities were of course far more murderous than the Black and Tans.  Many unarmed prisoners were simply shot by their guards as a reprisal for Free state casualties. By the end of the Civil War the Free State government had authorised the execution of 77; this was 53 more than the British had executed(24) during the War of Independence; There are no conclusive figures for the number of unofficial executions (murders in cold blood of anti-treaty republicans in custody by Free State troops) of captured Anti-Treaty fighters, but Republican officer Todd Andrews put the figure for “unauthorised killings” at 153.

The support of the Irish Labour and Trade Union Leaders for the Free State side in the 26-county Civil War Represents a Definitive Going Over of the Irish Trade Union and Labour Party Leaderships to the side of capitalism.

There had been other betrayals such as the undermining of the Limerick City Soviet, but supporting the Free State forces was general and definitive. It was the rejection of everything James Connolly had stood for.

It has been generally held by true socialists  that the action of the German social democratic leaders in voting the monies to the German government to wage the First World War was the moment these had deserted the socialist revolution and gone over to German capitalism. Supporting the Free State in the Civil war, has the same significance for the Irish Labour and Trade Union Leaders


To understand the policies of Irish Trade Union and Labour Party Leaders to-day, one has to understand that , like the Labour leaders approach to the Civil War, their first principle is that capitalism as a system must be retained. Hence, it must not be de-stabilised  and must be rescued if necessary.

The stability of the capitalist system in Ireland was in question after the 2008 banking crash. Negotiating pay and pension cuts while the super-rich were protected, participating in the cutting of welfare benefits etc was in line with the first principle.

Such collaboration with capitalism was to be expected and Will Continue as long as workers leaderships based on the first principle remain in office.

It is difficult to compare the privileges of senior trade union officials today to those of senior officials in the 1920s. In the 1920s, the possession of a permanent job was itself a rare possession. Other benefits for union officials were informal. Today the privileges are systematised. Compliant trade union officials can expect the following: For the Leaders of the Big Unions-Pre and Post Retirement state jobs in addition to their trade union salaries and pensions. For the leaders of smaller unions-Post Retirement state jobs. To ensure control of all trade unions by the leaders of the bigger unions, these powerful leaders are given the right to allocate the Post Retirement jobs to the leaders of the smaller unions!!!!

Workers, union members must retake control of trade unions from full time officials. Full time officials must be removed from all positions of power including membership of the executive council of ICTU.

Elected Officers and national executive members must be recallable at any time by those who elected them.  A petition signed by 10% of the relevant members should be sufficient to hold a new election within as short a time as reasonable.

The employment contract of trade union officials with the union should include a clause forbidding the official to give paid service to a private employer with whom they have engaged or to the state for five years after ceasing to work for the union.

Genuine socialists must organise within unions to bring about these changes if trade unions are to be returned to genuinely serving the members’ interests.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. May 21, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Socialist Fight and commented:
    This is top class stuff.

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