Irish Communist Charles Donnelly, who would later die fighting fascists with the Connolly Column in Spain, writes on the Communist Party’s reaction to the call for a ‘Republican Congress’ emanating from left wing leaders of the Irish Republican Army like George Gilmore and Peadar O’Donnell, and its first meeting in Athlone in April, 1934.
‘Irish Republican Army Left Wing Calls Anti-Imperialist Meet’ by Charles Donnelly from the Daily Worker. Vol. 11 No. 99. April 25, 1934.
Communist Party Hails Break with Reformism in Ranks of I.R.A.
At the moment when the active interest of American workers in the struggles of the workers and farmers of Ireland has received a renewed stimulus through the tour of Sean Murray, leader of the Communist Party of Ireland, in the United States, the following report on the development of the anti-imperialist front in Ireland has special significance for American workers.—Editors.
A new grouping of anti-imperialist forces is forming in Ireland just now. Keen interest in the issue and, unfortunately, also considerable confusion as to what it is, are widespread. This confusion is being deliberately intensified by the reactionary bureaucratic Army Council of the Irish Republican army.
The Army Council has throughout the economic war refused to organize the republican resistance. It has clearly shown its incapacity to lead the republican front. But it has never been afraid of radical phrases, and this is apparently its ground in claiming that the new front, formed “without its consent,” is in reality a breach of the republican hegemony. To encounter its propaganda, it will be sufficient to publish the history of the new movement.
At the General Army Convention of March last the following statement was put forward for ratification:
“That we. authorized delegates from all units of the army in Ireland and Britain, assembled at the General Array Convention of the Irish Republican Army, redeclare our allegiance to the Republic of Ireland, based upon production for use and not for profit, and in which the exploitation of human brings, with all its attendant miseries and insecurity, shall not be tolerated, as shown in the pamphlet headed Governmental Policy and Constitution of Oglaigh na h-Eirean.
“We again declare, in reply to the demands of, and coercion by, the governments of Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, that the Irish Republican Army shall not be disbanded until such time as the government of the Irish Republic, based upon political and social principles set out in the pamphlet referred to, is functioning freely.”
The convention, influenced by a ruling of the chairman and by the attitude of the leaders, refused by a narrow majority to ratify the amendment. As a result, three prominent delegates, Peader O’Donnell, Michael Price, and George Gilmore, left the convention. Five days later Price wrote the Army Chief-of-Staff, that as a Republican who was “perfectly convinced” that the “Republic of a United Ireland will never be achieved, except through a struggle, which overthrows capitalism on the way” he was forced by the attitude of the convention disclosed in its refusal to ratify the above statement, to resign from the I.R.A., “that one-time revolutionary body.”
Left-wing republicans, organized chiefly by O’Donnell and Gilmore, then held a conference at Athlone and issued a manifesto, calling for a big republican anti-imperialist congress, and announcing the formation of a bureau for its organization. The bureau has been set up and has its address at 202 Pearse Street, Dublin.
Their manifesto was immediately responded to by the Communist Party of Ireland, which hailed It as signalizing the revolt of a large section of the I.R.A., and announced that Irish Communists will work wholeheartedly to achieve the national mobilization of workers and farmers for which the manifesto calls. But the Communist Party, while joining in the work of forming an anti-imperialist front, will oppose any attempt to create a new party.
The Communist Party also lays stress on the importance of the proposed congress, which must be made “the biggest hosting against capitalist imperialism the country has seen since the Anglo-Irish war.”
“The congress,” it says, “must be the starting point of a nation-wide struggle, based on the immediate issues confronting the working masses, for the winning of national freedom, and the establishment of the United Republic of the workers and farmers.”
Meanwhile the Army Council is working with all its strength to break the new front against imperialism.
On April 6th the Adjutant-General of the I.R.A. addressed a communication to the officers concerned in the new party informing them that a court martial had been prepared for them.
The Council of the I.R.A. then added to the number of documents a pathetic, but much advertised, attempt to hide the disruption of the army, to confuse republicans, and to disrupt the republican front.
These enemies of the revolution, who prevented the ratification of a definite and revolutionary statement at the Army Congress set out by claiming that so far as the Athlone statement “is an attack on the present social and economic system, and an indictment of the policy of the governments of the Six and Twenty-Six counties, the Army Council is in complete agreement.” This, they say, “must be clearly understood.”
They deny that the Athlone meeting expresses a disruption of the army, and stoutly declare that “this attempt” at “division” “will fail as others have failed.” (Meanwhile their organ “An Phoblacht” refers to Gilmore and O’Donnell as “deserters”). But they are forced to “regret” that “good republicans should have lent their names in such away to the attack on the army”—especially at such a time! Tearfully they display their record. They have actually “repeatedly indicted the Fianna Fail government.”
Perhaps it is by this record that they justify the hauteur of their concluding prophecy of the future career of the “disrupters”:
“This party will,” actually, “in course of time, contest elections and enter the Free State Parliament. Inevitably it will follow the road which has been travelled by other constitutional parties, which, though setting out with good intentions, ended in failure.”
The Army Council has now revealed its isolation from the revolutionary republican movement and the real aspirations of republicans. Irish Communists will work hard to prevent the confusion of revolutionaries on our tensing front by the propaganda of the Army Council, to complete the enlightenment of the rank and file of the I.R.A. to show who are the disrupters and which are the anti-imperialist front.
The Daily Worker began in 1924 and was published in New York City by the Communist Party US and its predecessor organizations. Among the most long-lasting and important left publications in US history, it had a circulation of 35,000 at its peak. The Daily Worker came from The Ohio Socialist, published by the Left Wing-dominated Socialist Party of Ohio in Cleveland from 1917 to November 1919, when it became became The Toiler, paper of the Communist Labor Party. In December 1921 the above-ground Workers Party of America merged the Toiler with the paper Workers Council to found The Worker, which became The Daily Worker beginning January 13, 1924.
PDF of full issue: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020097/1934-04-25/ed-1/seq-1/