Friday 5 September 2008

The Plough Vol 05 No 09

The Plough

Vol 5-No 9

Friday 5th September 2008

E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party

1) Editorial –the vacuum!

2) Recession

3) Roddy Connolly and the Struggle for Socialism in Ireland

4) Lisbon Dead But Is It Buried?

5) Grassroots Shop Stewards and Union Activists Conference

6) Letters

Where political vacuums exist there is always someone to rush in and fill the gap with alternatives. The current paralysis at Stormont has created a gap. The failure of the DUP and Provisional Sinn Fein to come to agreement on the devolution of policing and justice and the inability of the executive to meet over the summer has lead to a growing disillusionment among some sections of the population. Many nationalist who having once lent their votes to H-block candidates many years ago decided to stick with Provisional Sinn Fein as it moved towards its peace process. They once hoped that, not only would peace break out, but that huge political gains would be made by Northern Nationalists. They indeed did get a cessation of violence but they also got Ian Paisley as First Minister, Peter Robinson as First Minister, MI5 now officially based in the North of Ireland and with full control of security matters relating to Republicans. They also got a local administration under the financial control of the British Treasury and committed to the implementation of the privitisation policies of the Blair /Brown Governments. On the plus side it could be argued that reforms were achieved including the reform of policing, the recognition of an all Ireland dimension, a commitment to equality and human rights and cross border bodies.
Regardless however of the arguments pro and anti the Good Friday Agreement there is as yet no widespread opposition to the agreed political structures in the North. Yes there is a cynicism, and there are doubts among the general population about the long -term stability of the Stormont system but no strong viable alternative exists.

Within what could call the broad republican traditions there are conflicting views. Some of the existing organisations that emerged from the provisional tradition believe in the efficacy of armed struggle while others while condoning street rioting hesitate at calling for a return to armed struggle. Some base their politics on events that happened ninety years ago while others appeal to so called traditional republican values.

Those who emerged from the official Republican traditions of the early 1970’s based their politics and actions on various interpretations of Marxism. They placed class struggle at the heart of their beliefs. Along the way some of them ditched the national question and concentrated only on the class issue. This lead some of them to join the British Imperialists in condemning the republican hunger strikers and labeling anyone who did not share their analysis as “terrorists” “ultra leftists.” They confused nationalism and the struggle for national determination and so became cheer leaders for rapid industrialisation under capitalism. In this they were accompanied by some of the so called far left who while formally recognising there was some kind of national question in practice ignored it and made pious appeals for class unity as they attempted to build a base within the trade union movement.

The Republican Socialist movement itself made errors mistakes and took wrong turns during the years of its existence. That said there is no such thing as the perfect organisation. To err is human. A sign of the genuineness and relevance of a revolutionary organisation is its ability to learn from its mistakes. Organisations are set up to pursue specific policies and have a clearly defined set of beliefs. They are not set-up simple to exist. Once the existence of an organisation becomes more important than the ideals and principles that set it up in the first place then it no longer deserves to exist for it will inevitably corrupt its ideals in the interests of perpetuating its existence.
The current demand by the Democratic Unionist Party for the disbandment of the Provisional IRA’s Army Council has a certain amount of logic. After all where it is now is certainly not where it was when set up in 1970. Certainly not in terms of beliefs, aims and objectives and certainly not in terms of principles. Perhaps that could be said of a lot of organisations. After all external changes in the world have a direct impact on events in Ireland.
For example the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major shock for many on the left with a smattering knowledge of Marxism. It was such a shock that many became so disillusioned that they abandoned politics. Those on the right gloated and said it was the end of history and that capitalism had won the class struggle. Previously revolutionary national liberation struggles now began to make peace with the Imperialist overlords. Hence the Irish Peace Process. In retrospect it now clear that the visit of people like Adams and Mc Guinness to the USA in the early nineties was to pay homage to the world’s only super power and promise to forget all that “revolutionary nonsense” they had previously sprouted.
Others took from the collapse of the Soviet Union and from the internal sectarian squabbling of far left organisations that marxism itself had failed. So called revolutionaries dismissed Marxism as irrelevant to the “real revolutionaries.”
Yet Marxism is the only thing that can make sense of what is happening in the world. History was not ended. Class conflicts have arisen all over the world. In recent years the masses in South America have shifted to the left and socialism has taken root in place like Venezuela and Bolivia. Of course that is no guarantee that it will last but it does prove the essential validity of the Marxist analysis.

The IRSP from its foundation in the mid 1970’s was always influenced by Marxism. People from Seamus Costello through to Ta Power had an essentially Marxist analysis of the national question in Ireland. Ronnie Bunting was another Marxist influenced at one time by Maoism. The essential document for all republican socialists -the Ta Power Document is a Marxist document and has guided the leadership of the Republican Socialist Movement for at least the past 14 years and was the guiding document for Gino Gallagher when along with others he began the rebuilding of the movement. But Marxism is not a religion it is a guide. Those who fetish the writings of Marxism are no better than the fundamentalist preachers who try to ram the Bible and creationism down one’s throat.
It is the use of Marxism methodology and approaches that should guide the IRSP in the coming period. We have been consistent in our analysis of the current political peace process and have on that basis clearly pointed out the folly of taking the armed road at this historical juncture. We are not pacifists and we do seek revolutionary change but that will not come about simply because we want it. We have clearly stated in the past that while there is no basis for organisation unity with other republicans there is room for –co-operation on matters of mutual interests including demonstrations pickets etc.
We have also firmly set out our stall. We are socialists and we firmly base ourselves on the needs and aspirations of the working classes in Ireland. Our way forward is to build the revolutionary party and that means the fullest commitment from all our comrades concentrating, not on blaming other republicans for the political vacuum but posing instead the alternative way forward, the Marxist , the republican socialist road. With out 100% commitment from all those who call themselves republican socialists that road will be all the harder to travel.
At a time of credit crunches, inflation, lay offs rising food petrol prices and a general air of economic despondency we Republican Socialists need to make sure that the really class issues are raised and not get side tracked by the blind alleys of anti-social behaviour, drugs, flag waving or sectarian issues. The national question is inextricably tied up with the class question. It is our job to clearly put both to the fore.


As the economies of the two artificially separated parts of the island of Ireland both limp from one crisis to another it would appear, certainly from media reports, that all sympathy is aimed in the direction of the employers and business. There is little mention of the people who really suffer when capitalism finds itself in trouble, the working class. This should come as no major surprise as it is the capitalist class, the wealth accumulators, and not the wealth creating working class, who own and run society for their own benefit. Governments, Irish, British and those who sit in that farcical Northern Assembly who call themselves a government but lack full governmental powers, are there to govern the affairs of and in the interests of the capitalist class. On a recent UTV, news report the regional newscaster was almost in tears as she was informing the viewers, some of whom had probably lost their jobs, how hard the ‘economic slowdown’ would be for business and how bad business’s would be hit, how profits would suffer etc. Needless to say there was very little words of sympathy for the working class many of whom stand to lose their employment, not chiefly because of any bad government decision or policy,( after all they only do what their capitalist masters require them to do,) but because of working in an unstable, unreliable and uncaring system.

Capitalism is a system geared solely to allowing the minority capitalist class to amass huge profits on the backs of the majority working class. It is true that in these post modern times some working class people don’t see themselves as working class and for these people a reality check is probably about to ensue. Working class (proletariat) people are only permitted to make a living and improve their living standards on the strict proviso that the capitalists are to amass huge profits out of the labour power of these same workers. If it is not profitable it does not get produced irrespective as to how much society as a whole needs the product, no production no labour required.

In the Twenty Six Counties the picture is much the same as in the Six Counties. The building trade, as far as labour is concerned, is in a mess because property speculators can not make as much profit out of once vastly inflated house prices. Therefore the people who actually build the houses, workers in the form of Bricklayers, Carpenters, Electricians, Plasterers, Glaziers, Painters and Labourers etc., are “laid off”. Less profits for these speculators and employers should not be confused with no profit it simply means not as much profit. This scenario is not specific to the building trade as it is repeated in many other sectors.

What can those gallant men and women who consider themselves fit to govern sitting in Dail Eirean do about the situation? The strange fact is that, like most people who are in jobs they are incapable of carrying out, they don’ know what to do! Even if they did have in inkling as to which way they should proceed they would find progress very difficult because they blindly follow an economic policy placing the interests of the “market” over and above all other considerations (and if the Lisbon Treaty is ever passed these interests will take an even larger preference). They take a minimum intervention stance in the economy, a modern equivalent of the 19th century Laissez Faire economic ideology initially based on the “invisible hand” theories of the 18th century economist Adam Smith, and even he accepted labour as the chief contributor in creating wealth. If these people who sit in Dail Eireann and their counterparts who do the same in the parliaments of other countries had any idea of what to do, or had the balls to do it, they would take a more hands on approach to the economy, whether it suited the needs of the capitalist class or not (and whether Brussels approved or not),

1/stop tax breaks for big business,

2/nationalise all medium to large companies, including the building trade,

3/cap profits

4/back away from the notion of a pay freeze at the instigation of the employers.

Economic planning as opposed to the anarchy of the so called free market would become economic policy. Had this policy previously been adopted the economic slowdown which could reach recession levels may have been avoided. Instead of giving corporate tax reductions and tax breaks to their masters in big business the same money, after all public services were taken care of, could have been saved for times of crisis. Put simply a socialist planned economy based on production for the needs of people as opposed to the profits of the few.

Well fellow proletarians it looks for us like the crisis is about to arrive, and when Brian Cowen, An Taoiseach,went to the piggy bank guess what!, it was empty. Poor Brian and his cabinet did not know what to do when suddenly he, Brian, had an idea We’ll BORROW the money from our capitalist friends abroad. What Brian and his puppet government did not realise is that capitalism has no friends, they even despise each other such is the ruthless nature of the system. As a consequence of this imbecile system, governed by fools for the benefit of thieves, it is the working class and not the robber barons who normally suffer. This we are constantly reminded is the only way, the finest route, the only pragmatic political avenue, to follow in the management of our affairs, and the problem and tragedy is people, even those who stand to lose their jobs and therefore their income swallow it and, tragically will encourage their children to do the same.

(Kevin Morley)

Charlie McGuire
Roddy Connolly and the Struggle for Socialism in Ireland
Cork University Press, 2008. 328pp.

As the son of James Connolly, Roddy Connolly wished to continue the fight for the realisation of his father’s ideals through involvement with the Republican Movement , the Communist Party (of which he was one of the founders) and finally in the Irish Labour Party. Until his death in 1980, Roddy Connolly took part in the Easter Rising, formed Ireland’s first Communist Party, was briefly involved in the Workers Party of Ireland in 1926, and ended up joining the Irish Labour Party with the intention of taking it to the left. In the 1940s, he was twice-elected Labour TD, and in the 1970s returned as chairman and Senate member. Charlie McGuire’s book is important not only because it is the first biography of Roddy Connolly to be published, but also because it challenges the dominant interpretation of the extraordinary times through which Roddy Connolly lived.

« An examination of Connolly’s career assists those historians who wish to challenge these conservative interpretations because it illuminates the thread of radicalism that runs throughout twentieth-century Irish social and political history, and in so doing, alters appreciably the latter’s overall appearance. »

This book,

« dedicated to all those redoutable and often forgotten women and men who were ever part of the struggle for socialism in Ireland »,

is written from a perspective sympathetic to the ideals that motivated Connolly father and son. This book will be of great interest to Republicans and Socialists. The only problem is that it is very expensive –49 Euro- but it is possible to get this important book through library or interlibrary loan.

Roddy Connolly continued his father’s fight after his execution for taking part in the 1916 Rising. McGuire provides a succint but valuable assessment of the reasons behind James Connolly’s decision to take part in the Rising. This is all the more important given that he is often accused of having abandoned socialism for nationalism, taken a pro-German position, and subordinated the working class movement to petty-bourgeois forces. A key factor pushing James Connolly towards the rising was his analysis of the world war and post-war perspective.

« Connolly clearly believed that the war was a result of the crisis of a decaying British capitalism and imperialism, as opposed to a general crisis of world capitalism and imperialism. (Note : this distinguishes Connolly’s analysis from that of Lenin or Luxemburg –LOR)

He saw the British Empire…as a brake on the economic, political and cultural progress of colonial nations throughout the world and Ireland in particular. In the light of the failure of the Second International to stop the war, Connolly moved to the position that the next best outcome would be a British defeat and the destruction of its empire. But Connolly also feared that if the British won, they would be able to offset their declining power for another generation. This would allow them to carry through the partition of Ireland…Connolly also looked at the disappearing liberties of the working class in both Ireland and Britain and felt that these might be permanently lost in the post-war period.

» These are some of the reasons why James Connolly came to favour a German victory in the Great War ; something not mentioned in the usual hagiographies of Connolly. Better the victory of « German State Socialism », as he called it, as it carried « more possibilities of progress » than British imperialism.

Because James Connolly did not see the war as a general crisis of imperialism (he viewed it only as its British variant) Connolly did not foresee the post-war convultions that would rock European capitalism in the 1917-1920 period. As McGuire notes,

« He did not hold to the perspective of a maturing European working-class revolt, but felt that the Irish working class’s only chance at avoiding the terrible fate he saw awaiting it lay in an immediate strike at the British before the limited window of opportunity afforded by the war was closed off for another generation. »

James Connolly ultimately threw in his lot with a section of the advanced nationalist petty bourgeoisie in 1916. This did not represent a failure of his politics or an abandonment of socialism. The problem for Connolly however, was that the respective balance of forces in this joint venture was weighted heavily in favour of the adavanced nationalists. The problem with this from a socialist point of view is that

« rather than the organised working class leading the revolt pulling behind it the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie ; the opposite was true. » The petty bourgoisie would lead the revolt with only a marginal input being made by the organized working class that had been badly weakened by both the Dublin lock-out and the war. Charlie McGuire defends Connolly’s stance : « It was not the revolt he had envisaged or worked towards, but one, given the perspective that he held to, that Connolly felt he had no choice but to organize and be involved in. He had not abandoned socialism…but was, in his view, acting the only way a socialist could, in the given circumstances. »

This disgression to show that the quality of Charlie McGuire’s discussion of 1916 illustrates the overall strength of his analyses throughout the book.

A substantial part of McGuire’s biography of Roddy Connolly deals with the period usually referred to as the ‘war of independence’ and the ‘civil war’. Since the second half of the 1990s, ground breaking studies of the period have been published. Most of them reject the idea that class struggle was central to the dynamic of the period and argue that it had no real socialist content or potential. In contrast, Charlie McGuire’s book « show that the assumption made by most historians that this was a purely conservative revolution –and Richard English, Tom Garvin , Peter Hart and Henry Patterson are just four in a long list of historians who hold this view- is one in need of major qualification. It is, in fact, more accurate to see the Irish Revolution as springing from various, and at time conflicting, sources , some proletarian, other bourgeois. True, it was led by the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements and ultimately served sectional interests within those classes. This though, does not alter the fact that there was a proleterian aspect to it as well. The level of strike activity and agrarian disturbances, the fact that the land question lay unresolved, the existence of soviets and workers’ rule, shows this demonstrably to be the case. The input of the Communists during the Irish Revolution highlighted these social aspects. It introduced a Marxist subjective factor into the objective situation, which helped to illustrate its class component. This was particularly the case after the outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922. … In short Connolly and the CPI recognized the social strand within the Irish Revolution and, considering it to be its most significant component, sought to make it the basis of the entire anti-Treaty movement, warning that this was the only way it would succeed. This shows that there was logic behind the communist argument that involvement in the Civil War was involvement in the class war. And as a whole, it illustrates that the Irish Revolution was not the straightforward conservative, bourgeois revolution that so many regard it to be.

» This challenges Richard English’s argument that the ideas of Socialist Republicans of that time had little value and no real basis in reality.

The same goes for the twenties and thirties. The political and economic problems of the Free State « created considerable political space on both the national and the social fronts and constituted a golden opportunity

» for the left. « Instead Fianna Fail, which emerged simultaneously and which courtesy of its much wider base and superior level of organisation was able to occupy with ease the radical anti-Treaty ground in Irish politics, swamped it. For three years the Irish Left had had numerous chances to build an alternative to the neo-colonialism of Cumann na nGaedheal but had wasted them all. Now it was too late. Fianna Fail’s potent mix of economic and political nationalism, coupled with promises of industrial jobs and land reforms, allowed de Valera to win over large sections of the working class as well as the petty bourgeoisie. In effect, he had taken up both the national and the social questions, linking social and economic improvements with progress on the national question, albeit in a non-republican, non-socialist manner, and stymied any hopes the Left might have had of emerging as the main opposition to Cumann na nGaedheal. »

It is not that Republican Socialists such as Roddy Connolly did not have a real chance. « That Irish workers voted for material reasons for (Fianna Fail) the party that they saw upholding their interests, and could link those interests to the national question politically and economically, suggested that a party in the James Connolly tradition might receive a fair hearing. »

The problem for the left is that « whereas Fianna Fail was from its inception a large party that looked capable of defeating Cosgrave, the WPI was tiny. In such circumstances, there could be only one winner in the struggle for the anti-Treaty political ground. » Charlie McGuire shows the negative and divisive role played by James Larkin in those formative years of the Irish communism. Larkin bears a heavy responsibility for the fact that there is no significant Republican Socialist party in Ireland today. James Larkin is probably one of the worst things that happened to the Irish left. The book provides excellent material on the early years of Irish communism.

Roddy Connolly was involved in the short-lived Republican Congress . « Could Congress have succeeded ? In his Rathmines speech, Connolly made the assertion that the working class was becoming more and more militant, more confident…Connolly’s core argument did contain more than a grain of truth. After several years of sporadic, unsuccessful, defensive strike activity designed to minimize wage cuts, 1934 had seen a resurgence in working-class struggle. … Conditions were becoming more favourable for working-class struggle. It is possible that had Congress survived Rathmines…a healthy movement might have been created, having as its aim the directing of this militancy. This is not to argue that such development would have been certain. The power of Fianna Fail was considerable in the early period of its rule. In addition was the impact of the Red Scare, formented by the Catholic Church and possessing virulent qualities. In these conditions the creation of a healthy left-wing movement would have been an immensely difficult task. At the same time, however, the contradictions within Fianna Fail, which had already become evident and which were highlighted by the activity of Connolly and the rest of the Congress, had created a degree of political space for the Left to operate in. Rathmines, though, ensured that this opportunity would be passed up and that the Left would continue to exist in extreme marginalization. »

After the failure of the Republican Congress, Larkin confined himself within the Irish Labour Party, and as time passed, moved increasingly to the right. At the end of his life, Roddy Connolly had become a right-wing social-democrat (he supported the expulsion of John Thorne and the Irish Militant Tendency) instead of communism, and defended the institutions of Leinster House rather than their overthrow. Charlie McGuire mentions the links Roddy Connolly had established with Seamus Costello during the 1960s. They were from the same area in Wicklow, and Connolly had welcomed Costello’s election ; although in the 1970s he would come to denounce Republicans engaged in subversive activities North and South. Using Roddy Connolly’s example, the second part of the book offers solid grounds for rejecting the strategy of transforming the Labour party from within, the implicit conclusion being that the development of working class politics requires political and organisational break with Labourism.



On the 12th June 2008 the voters of the twenty six counties were asked to vote for acceptance or rejection of a document compiled by the custodians of European capitalism known as the Lisbon Treaty. The electorate, comprising of a relatively high turn out of well over 50%, voted in excess of 100,000 votes to reject this treaty. This sent a clear message to the government of the Free State for conveyance to their so-called counterparts in Europe that they had been given a democratic mandate by their people not to ratify Lisbon.

The rules of the game were for the Lisbon Treaty to become enshrined in European legislation all 27 member states had to ratify the document. The Irish people, who were the only population in the European club to get the opportunity to vote, said NO. The fact that the Irish people voted to reject Lisbon should have signaled the death of this treaty and, it is broadly felt, if the whole of the peoples of Europe had the chance, which the Irish had, they would have in all probability also rejected this illegible rubbish.

There were many reasons why the people voted NO in this referendum not least the tireless work carried out by umbrella groups such as the Campaign Against European Union Constitution (CAEUC), which consists of a number of affiliated political parties, groups and individuals the Irish Republican Socialist Party being one. As far as individual reasons why people voted to reject the treaty it is fair to say there is no single issue which could give a pointer. Some people, with much justification, were afraid of the “market” becoming the lead factor in the administration of public services. After all the health service for example is already in a poor state for working class people who, unlike the private patients, rely on the public sector without the profit factor becoming the dominant force. Other people voted for rejection because the text, that is those who could get their hands on a copy, was illegible and those who could not obtain a copy, the majority, did not hear one tangible argument as to why they should vote to accept the treaty. Another reason cited by many was that acceptance would signal the final death knell for Irish military neutrality. So the reasons for rejection were many but there is one thing for certain; the concise arguments for a NO vote won the day much to the wrath of the Irish and European establishments.

The campaign for a NO vote began in earnest several months ago with many public meetings taking place throughout the country. The hard work paid off. However unfortunately it is becoming increasingly clear that despite the large mandate afforded to the government to take back to Brussels for rejection it is not the end of the saga. It was reported well before the referendum that 499 MEPs had taken a decision that if the Irish voted for rejection that vote should be ignored and the treaty enshrined anyway. In other words the Irish can vote which ever way the please it alters nothing. The IRSP raised this issue even to the point of over labouring perhaps but it is becoming clear that those labours may have been well founded. For example one French newspaper headlines read ‘The Irish Must Vote Again’ and there is much talk of a second referendum just like what happened with the Nice treaty a few years ago. If this moving of the goalposts does occur again it, to all intents and purposes, will render all future referenda in Ireland worthless. Worthless because if the people do not vote the establishments way they will simply be asked to vote again until they get it right. However it has not yet been decided by the European elite whether the Irish people will have to vote again but there is one thing which appears to be a certainty and that is if they do it will not be the governments decision, though publicly it must appear to be so, the order will come from Brussels and/or Paris. It must be remembered that there is no mandate for a second referendum because as the establishment kept constantly reminding us all in the run up to the referendum if the treaty is rejected “there is no plan B”.

Another option for Brian Cowen and his team of political masquerades, which again there is no mandate for, is to renegotiate the Lisbon Treaty perhaps giving it a different name, for example The Leafy Suburb Just Outside Madrid Treaty, making it slightly more legible but not wholly comprehensible, dotting a few I’s and crossing the T’s and resubmitting what would essentially amount to a treaty consisting of the same content with a different name. This would be difficult to do because the reason the Lisbon Treaty was made illegible was in the words of the Belgian Foreign Minister, Karel de Gucht, “the aim of the constitutional treat was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty (Lisbon) is to be unreadable”. Perhaps the reason the French and Dutch electorate voted to reject the original “Constitutional Treaty” could well have been because it was readable. If Lisbon was to be resubmitted under whatever title in a legible form the establishment run the risk of an even larger humiliation, after all imagine just for once playing something like a slightly more honest hand and still being kicked into touch.

The twenty six county government could, if they wish negotiate a completely new treaty but must remain mindful that for Ireland Lisbon is dead. Any new treaty must include, among other points, the following:

1) Public services must be exempted from the merciless mechanics of the “market”.

2) Irish troops must be withdrawn from PFP (Partnership For Peace which is NATO led) and any other aggressive military organisations such as battle groups. Only then will people be reassured that Ireland’s neutrality is safe.

3) A democratic Europe where the people are the final arbiters.

4) A bill of rights within Europe including a charter for workers which takes preference over all other considerations including the “market”, profits, the needs of the minority employers and must include free collective bargaining for all employees to be recognised by all employers. Any charter on fundamental rights, from an Irish perspective, must include the right of the Irish people as a whole to self determination unmolested by outside influence and artificial borders.

5) A socially inclusive Europe for all its peoples.

The government should remember that their people have given them a mandate and a strong one at that. They should forget about appeasing Mr Barrosa, President of the European Commission, and the French President Mr Sarkozy along with other European leaders and work with the mandate they have been given.

Kevin Morley

Grassroots Shop Stewards and Union Activists Conference on:

Re-Building Trade Union Activism
Saturday 20th September

Venue: UNITE Hall,
Middle Abbey St, Dublin


11.30 to 1pm: Pay claims, social partnership and re-building our unions

Speakers: Jimmy Kelly, Regional Secretary UNITE; Owen McCormack,
Busworkers Action Group; Dick Roche TEEU National Executive


2pm - 3.30pm: Public sector cuts and outsourcing: How do we resist
Speakers: Joe Tully, (Nurses Rep); Bernard Lynch ASTI; John Kidd SIPTU
Convenor, Dublin Fire Brigade

3.30pm - Recruiting to the unions: How we organise

Speakers: Paul Hansard, President SIPTU Construction Branch; speaker from
UNITE organising unit.

All speakers in a personal capacity

Entrance Fee ?5 (to cover running costs)


The trade union movement needs a radical change of direction. For twenty one years it backed social partnership deals and this has led to the weakening of the grassroots of the movement. But at the first sign of recession, the employers' organisation, IBEC, told us that workers cannot get the wage increases we deserve. Wages had to be cut - and not profits!
Those who gained most from the boom now want us to pay for the recession.

There is a real danger that employers will try to destroy hard fought-for conditions. Outsourcing and agency working have become the new weapons that are used against workers.

We have to resist. But the present model of union organising will not serve us well for the battles head. Some of the union leaders have become too close to the government and do not know how to fight.
One result of the failed strategies of the past, is that union density has fallen. Ten years ago, more than one in two workers was a member of a union. Today it has fallen to one in three and, amongst young workers, only one in four.We need a return to grassroots trade union activism to tackle this.We would, therefore, would like to invite fellow shop stewards and union activists to a national gathering to discuss a new way forward for our unions.

This gathering is inspired by a few simple ideas:

· That we need strong unions that can take on the employers and win real gains for workers.

· That union leaders must show leadership in this fight - and not be messengers for the government or the employers.

· That we need a strong shop steward organisation that is able to mobilise its members to take action.

· That we should be willing to use all weapons at our disposal, ranging from publicity battles to industrial action. We must do what it takes to win.

· That our unions need a strong political voice and that we cannot be
tied to one political party, which jettisons our interests.

This conference will be a practical, working conference that will bring together grassroots activists from a number of unions. Our aim is to spread the power of good examples, to learn from each other and to build solidarity.

We, the undersigned, support this Grassroots union conference and urge you to attend.


Kieran Allen (President, Education Branch SIPTU), Paul Hansard (President
Construction Branch SIPTU), Joe Moore (CWU National Executive), Des Derwin (President Engineering Branch SIPTU), Tommy Hogan (Regional Committee UNITE), Kevin McGaley (President Killarney Branch SIPTU), Doreen Fitzgerald (Shop Steward, Health Professional Branch SIPTU), Niall Smyth (Branch Secretary, Dublin City North Branch, INTO), John Kidd (SIPTU Convenor Dublin Fire Brigade), Mick Scanlon (Shop Steward Cork No 3 Branch SIPTU), Tony Greene (SIPTU area shop steward, Construction Branch), Brendan Begley (Shop Steward, SIPTU Education Branch) Eugene McDonagh (NRBU Executive) Rory
Coleman (shop steward Harristown Bus garage) Tony Kelly (Convenor Waterford Crystal) Mary Ryan (TUI Dublin County Branch Committee member) Alice Sheridan (PSEU Branch Committee member) Dick Roche (TEEU shop steward & President of Waterford Trades Council) Breege Scanlon (Nurses Rep)
(All signatories are in a personal capacity and the descriptions are not
used to indicate anything other than the signatories are union activists)

Please ciculatre details of the conference to any e mail list of trade

For further information on the conference contact: 087 2839964 or email:

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