Jimmy Shields, British ‘Daily Worker’ editor, reports on the response to the rise of the Blueshirt movement in Ireland, founders of the Fine Gael party.
‘The Struggle of the Irish Masses Against Fascist Reaction’ by Jimmy Shields from International Press Correspondence. Vol. 13 No. 36. August 18, 1933.
Alarmed at the fast developing growth of struggle which is manifesting itself on the part of the Irish masses, the big capitalists and ranchers in Ireland, with the backing and support of British imperialism, are driving ahead with the development and organization of fascist activity.
By means of the latter they are seeking to crush the revolutionary working class and republican movement in Ireland, and also further the war preparations of British imperialism in which the question of Ireland and its position figures as being of the utmost strategic importance.
The growing discontent of the Irish workers and poor farmers who are feeling the heavy brunt of the economic crisis, and the rapidly increasing mass disillusionment regarding the policy of the De Valera government, is causing the Irish toilers to sharpen their fight in support of their social and economic demands.
Evidence of this is to be seen in the increasing number of strike struggles which are taking place, and the sharpening character of the fight now going on in the Irish rural areas. Outstanding in this connection have been the recent strikes of the railwaymen, teachers and seamen, and the pitched battles which are taking place between the small farmers and the police and the bailiffs in various counties in the Irish Free State.
It is because of this situation that the forces of reaction in Ireland are strengthening the development of fascist tendencies to the utmost. For some time past the Irish clergy have been waging a bitter campaign against the “menace of Communism.” Added to this we now see the growing reactionary activities of the recently formed “National” Guard, the Blueshirt fascist organisation.
Made up in the main from members of the former so-called Army Comrades’ Association (ex-army pensioners, ex-army officers), the National Guard, which is under the leadership of General O’Duffy, the former Cosgrave Police Chief, has been launched by the bankers, ranchers and big capitalists who are lined up with the camp of British imperialism. The sponsors of the Blueshirt fascist organisation have already made it clear that their principal aim is the crushing of the working class and the Irish revolutionary movement which is directed against British imperialism.
When O’Duffy addressed the delegates who were present at the opening convention of his organisation, he declared:
“One of the principal objects of the Guard is to combat Communism. We stand for an aggressive attitude towards Communism.”
At the same time O’Duffy and the leading figures of the Cosgrave Party, such as Mulcahy, Blythe, etc., who stand at the head of the Blueshirt organisation, make it clear that they are out to destroy the revolutionary republican movement and to impose the methods of fascist terror upon the Irish people. According to its leader, who, it is very significant to note, is provided with a pension of £520 a year by the Fianna Fail Government, the National Guard Blueshirts is a movement which strives to obtain “the best that is in fascism.”
These Blueshirts, whose total strength is estimated to be round about 30,000, are being aided by members of the British Intelligence Service and have been provided with large quantities of machine-guns and ammunition from British capitalist sources. They are constantly being encouraged and supported quite openly in the columns of the British capitalist press.
That the Irish labouring and republican masses recognise the menace which this fascist organisation constitutes with regard to themselves and the struggle for Ireland’s national and social liberation, is shown by the widespread mass hostility which they are displaying towards it. This has been very forcibly demonstrated during the course of the past week.
On the evening of August 8, for example, the masses in Dublin gave a very rough handling to members of the Blueshirt organization who had gathered to attend the annual dance of the Army Comrades’ Association in the Metropole Ballroom. On this occasion thousands of workers and rank and file members of the Irish Republican Army demonstrated against the Blueshirts in the Dublin streets, and despite repeated attempts made by the police to scatter them, in the course of which a number of arrests were made, forcibly expressed their hostility against the Blueshirt leaders.
It had been the intention of O’Duffy and his organisation to hold a parade in Dublin on Sunday, August 13, in memory of Michael Collins and others, who signed the Treaty of surrender in 1921. Big preparations had been made for this parade, which was to demonstrate the strength of the Blueshirts, and the capitalist press of Britain was openly speculating on the possibilities of it resulting in an armed conflict in the Dublin streets.
At the last moment, however, De Valera announced that the parade was banned, whereupon the Blueshirts cancelled their arrangements. Thousands of Irish workers gathered in the streets at the time when the parade had been specified to take place, and one or two groups of Blueshirt members who made their appearance were immediately set upon and beaten up by the angry workers. Only the intervention of the police, who made a baton charge on the crowd, prevented a worse fate from befalling them.
Since these events have taken place the growing tenseness of the situation in Ireland has become still more pronounced. O’Duffy has issued orders for local Blueshirt parades to be held throughout the country on August 20, in connection with which it is significant to note that British capitalism, through the columns of the “Daily Telegraph” has made the following declaration:
“Against the danger of sporadic disturbances it is almost impossible to make adequate provision if the National Guard are prepared to brave the wrath and vengeance of the I.R.A.” (“Daily Telegraph” 14/8/33.)
In other words British capitalism openly urges the Blueshirts to embark upon the adoption of terroristic measures against the Irish people.
Against the growing menace of fascism in Ireland, the Irish Communist Party is leading and organising the fight. In this task it is meeting with a big response and ever-growing mass support.
The C.P. of Ireland has drawn the attention of the Irish workers to the nature and character of the serious danger which confronts them. It is pointing out that the growth of fascism is an open challenge and menace to the working class and the national independence movement. Both in the Party’s organ, “Workers’ Voice,” and leaflets which have been widely distributed, the effects of the fascist dictatorship in Germany and how it was made possible, have been explained, and an urgent call issued for the building up of the broad united front of· the Irish working masses so as to destroy the danger of a similar happening in Ireland.
In analysing the development of fascist activity and organization in Ireland, the Irish Communist Party shows how the ground for O’Duffy and his National Guard has been prepared by the Fianna Fail Government, a fact which De Valera’s own organ, the “Irish Press,” has been compelled to admit, as the following statement in reference to the National Guard, taken from one of its leading articles, shows:
“No interference came from the Government, which relied upon the good sense of responsible citizens to prevent that organization becoming a national menace.” Irish Press,12/8/33.)
Indeed, the attitude of De Valera’s Government with regard to this question and its refusal to “interfere” with O’Duffy’s organization is all the more significant when it is known that it has been for some considerable time in possession of a report submitted to it by O’Duffy himself, while he was still Police Commissioner, which declared of the Army Comrades’ Association (from which the Blueshirts have been formed) that it was “a heavily-armed body, extremely dangerous to the State,” which “can, without doubt, lay hands on a sufficient quantity of arms and ammunition to render it a very formidable insurrectionary force and a source of extreme danger to the peace and stability of the country.”
In view of the above facts, and taking into account the strong reactionary social policy which the De Valera Government is pursuing, it becomes clear that the Fianna Fail Government is not, as its gesture of banning the Dublin Blueshirt parade would seem to indicate on the surface, showing any real opposition to the advance of fascism in Ireland, but on the contrary reveals itself as an agency engaged in holding back the masses from the struggle and facilitating the process of fascist development.
Only by the rousing of the Irish working masses, by the most intensive building up of the anti-fascist movement with deep roots among the workers in the factories, trade union organisations, and the ranks of the Irish Republican Army, will it be possible to withstand the growing fascist menace and defeat it. To achieve this, however, it is essential that there should be the utmost clarity on the question and the most decisive stand taken against all weakening and splitting tendencies which may manifest themselves.
In this connection attention, must be drawn to the extremely dangerous and harmful viewpoint which has been expressed by the petty bourgeois leadership of the I.R.A. when they declared in a recent number of the “An Phoblacht” with reference to the Blueshirt movement that:
“This fascist organisation proposes to regain power for the imperialists by force…There need be no alarm. The character of the leaders of this movement will ensure its failure.”
Such an attitude will only be productive of the most terrible harm unless it is fought against uncompromisingly. The same also applies to the policy which the I.R.A. leadership is pursuing of expelling Communists who are members of the Republican organisation. Any disruption or splitting of the ranks ·of the masses can only serve the purpose of playing into the hands of those who are pressing forward the attack against the Irish revolutionary movement. The terrible fruits which have shown themselves from the treacherous activities of the Labour Party and Trade Union leaders make this only too clear, as the Irish workers are aware.
The Irish toiling masses have a hard and stubborn fight confronting them. Through the· development of the widest mass united front struggle and activity under the leadership of the Irish Communist Party, that fight can be carried to complete success, and the day brought rapidly nearer when a free and independent Ireland shall be established in the form of the Irish Workers’ and Farmers’ Republic.
It is the task of the British working class, whose own exploiting bourgeoisie is at this moment engaged in fomenting and encouraging the most vicious reaction in Ireland in furtherance of its imperialist aims, to render the widest solidarity support and assistance to the Irish toilers in their fight and to raise and struggle more sharply and insistently for the granting of complete Irish independence.
International Press Correspondence, widely known as”Inprecor” was published by the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) regularly in German and English, occasionally in many other languages, beginning in 1921 and lasting in English until 1938. Inprecor’s role was to supply translated articles to the English-speaking press of the International from the Comintern’s different sections, as well as news and statements from the ECCI. Many ‘Daily Worker’ and ‘Communist’ articles originated in Inprecor, and it also published articles by American comrades for use in other countries. It was published at least weekly, and often thrice weekly. The ECCI also published the magazine ‘Communist International’ edited by Zinoviev and Karl Radek from 1919 until 1926 monthly in German, French, Russian, and English. Unlike, Inprecor, CI contained long-form articles by the leading figures of the International as well as proceedings, statements, and notices of the Comintern. No complete run of Communist International is available in English. Both were largely published outside of Soviet territory, with Communist International printed in London, to facilitate distribution and both were major contributors to the Communist press in the U.S. Communist International and Inprecor are an invaluable English-language source on the history of the Communist International and its sections.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/inprecor/1933/v13n36-aug-18-1933-Inprecor-op.pdf