National Liberation and Socialism: the Irish Case Study

Along with my study on Maoism  I will also me doing an investigation into the relationship between national liberation and socialism with a focus on Ireland. I will read essays written on the national question in general while also doing intense study on the Irish Question in particular. The goal of this study will be to attempt to understand the role (or lack thereof) of national liberation in the struggle for socialism.

My reading list for this study:

The Provisional IRA: From Insurrection to Parliament by Tommy McKearny

Black Skins White Masks by Fanon

Communism vs Reforms: Mistakes of the Irish Communist Party by Silvia Pankhurst

Marxism and the National Question by Stalin

Black Peculiarity Reconsidered by Adolf Reed

Wretched of the Earth by Fanon

The Colonial Question: An Initial Balance Sheet

Revolution in Ireland: Popular Militancy 1917 to 1923 by Conor Kostick

Revolt of the Bottom Dogs

The Munster Soviet and the Fall of the House of Cleeve by David Lee

1920: An Uprising in Munster

Limmerick Soviet

Red Flag: An Irishman’s Diary by Ciaran D’Arcy

James Connolly Internet Archive by James Connolly

Marx and Engels on the Irish Question by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels


I welcome additional suggestions!



Study on Maoism: Statement of Purpose

I am going to do a in depth study of Maoist politics and history in an effort to develop an effective critique of these politics. This will involve reading works written by Maoists, anti Maoist communists and bourgeois historians. I will begin my study by examining the history of Chinese Communist Party up to the trial of the Gang of Four.  After I complete my study of the CCP I will move on to the Maoist inspired movements from that time period, I will complete my study with a study of the modern politics of Marxism Leninism Maoism. I will try to write a review of most of the books I read.


My current reading list:

Maoism and the Chinese Revolution: A Critical Introduction by Elliott Liu (almost finished)

Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic by Maurice Meisner

The Shanghai Textbook

Report on the Hunan Peasant Movement by Mao

Wither China by Sheng-Wu-Lien

On Contradiction and On Practice by Mao

Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society 

Why is it that Red Political Power can Exist in China?

Building Class Consciousness

Solidarity and class consciousness are not merely ideological, if they have are to have any meaning at all they must be material realities. They are a recognition, carried over into practice, that all our seemingly disparate struggles are in fact inexorably linked. Solidarity means standing shoulder to shoulder with our fellow workers as comrades in the shared war on capitalism.

The most elementary solidarity is the collectivization of our individual struggles, at work we all have our individual grievances with the boss. Solidarity comes when we see our individual issues as shared and we fight back to change our conditions. This is solidarity as a material force, not as an ideological commitment. This unity can then be extended to include other workers, not just because it feels nice but because it allows us to win. 

An example; I was involved in supporting the Verizon strike. A comrade who was on strike talked about  how workers could do real damage to the company by occupying the Central Offices and shutting down all telecom communication in the northeast. However, doing this would get the parties involved arrested for terrorism and likely kill the strike (branding the entire union as terrorists). This is because of the low level of solidarity within the American working class, most people would just be angry that they lost internet or not care. This is the result of most American workers not even having a basic experience of class struggle. Because workers have no experience of fighting back they see no reason to stand together.

Most workers have never been on strike or even stood up collectively to their bosses or landlords. This lack of class experience translates into a lack of class consciousness. If the level of struggle was higher then the occupation of the Central Offices would be on the table, because the workers could count on the support of the class when they were arrested. By organizing and winning in their daily lives the workers would have seen the efficacy of solidarity, and could then expand that solidarity to the entire class. This visceral reality of solidarity can only be produced by struggle, and struggle waged by the greatest possible number of workers.

Given this the task of communists is twofold, 1) We must find ways to link together groups of workers in struggle 2) we collectivize individual struggles.

Unifying struggles means unifying them materially, not just verbally. That means looking for ways that disparate struggles share the same enemies. For example, striking oil workers and their allies in Texas found that the company providing scabs during a strike was also providing security forces to help crush the Ferguson uprising. This opened up a way for the oil workers to unify with the anti pig movement on a material basis. These disparate struggles had a shared enemy.

Unifying seemingly disparate struggles is important, but unity must be based on solidarity rather than paternalism. Paternalism in this case refers to any support based on a sense that one group of workers possesses some superiority to another group and must help them out of a sense of guilt and/or pity. This is common in the relationship between students and other sections of the class, and it must be combated. Students often view themselves as being superior by way of our education and relative privilege. This leads to support for workers taking the form of paternalistic morality, rather than real solidarity. This hurts both workers, for obvious reasons, but it also hurts students. By viewing ourselves as better than workers we often fail to see ways we can fight for ourselves. Student guilt politics leads to a refusal to organize against our own bosses, because we do not see ourselves as workers.

As hinted earlier in this essay, the task of communists is not to organize struggles but to collectivize them. Most working people are waging private class struggles, trying keep their heads above water in the neo liberal torrent. We can only win by finding those who uniting with our brothers and sisters in exploitation and fighting back. As individuals we struggle to pay ever increasing rents, but if we stood together we could win lower rents. We complain about the boss at the bar after work or on Facebook, never thinking of fighting back on the job. The task of communists is to find these individual struggles and turn them into collective ones.

Anton Pannekoek once said “the working class is not weak because it is divided; on the contrary, it is divided because it is weak”, when we are not fighting back it is easy to see our brothers and sisters as enemies. Or worse, to see our suffering as inevitable. The ruling class wants us to think of this as the natural order of things, as the only way to live. We must stand up and say NO, everything is inevitable until it is resisted.

Irish Socialism Study

Over the Summer I am going to do a study of the Irish Socialist Movement, I am doing this for three reasons.

1. While I generally find while American plastic paddies to be gross, I am of Irish descent and its a part of my family history. I am alive because some of my ancestors had to flee the potato famine, this draws me to that history.


2. I know more about the Irish socialist movement, and Irish history in general, than I do about that of any other country save for America’s. This base knowledge will allow me to jump into the history without having to muck about with the introductory texts.


With this base knowledge I can start my research with a few questions:

On the 1917-1918 period:

  1. What was the relationship between Irish nationalism/republicanism and the socialist and trade union/workers movement?
  2. What was the relationship between Irish nationalism/republicanism and the Soviets?
  3. How did the workers and socialists view nationalism, how did this differ from how Irish capitalists viewed it?
  4. Why did the Irish Soviets never come to power? What was the relationship of the trade unions and the Soviets?
  5. The Limerick Soviet was a response to British clampdowns in response to IRA activity, what was the relationship between the IRA and the Soviets?
  6. How did the Irish revolution relate to the diaspora?
  7. What role did sectarianism play in the period?


On the troubles:

  1. Why did the troubles happen, how did this shape the socialist movement both North and South?
  2. Was cross sectarian class struggle possible in this period?
  3. What was the Provisional IRA, what classes did it represent what was its project?
  4. How did native Irish workers relate to the IRA, how did English workers relate to the loyalist paramilitaries?
  5. What class struggles emerged during the Troubles, did they represent a path to cross sectarian solidarity?
  6. What are the potentials for class struggle since Good Friday? Are they better, or worse than before?

Any source recommendations are welcomed!

National Liberation and the Struggle for Communism


Any serious communist critique of national liberation must begin by accepting that national oppression exists, and that it is the primary cause of working class disunity. National liberation movements emerge because national oppression has already divided the working class. It is far too easy to fall into workerist national chauvinism if one (correctly) rejects national liberation as a tactic in the struggle for communism. The problem with national liberation is not that it attacks national oppression, but that it is incapable of achieving the liberation of oppressed workers.

The questions raised by national liberation are practical ones, and will only be fully worked out in the crucible of  class struggle. The ideas expressed here are the theories of lone individual with limited practical experience, and should be treated as such. The class war is the crucible in which our ideas are tempered and tested, and any ideas developed outside by lone radicals should be treated with extreme caution. I offer these proposals with this in mind:

  1. National liberation is a reaction to the material reality of national oppression, and many struggles waged by oppressed workers will use it’s language. When a struggle breaks out we must analyze it from a material perspective, just because it uses nationalist language does not mean it is not class struggle. Many such struggles will have both nationalist and class elements, and we must learn to tell the difference.
  2. If a struggle proves to have class elements we must support it, without giving up our right to political independence. In practice this will mean standing shoulder to shoulder with nationalists, while also explaining why national liberation will not achieve the goals of oppressed workers. Our critiques must be constructive, in that they must offer a a practical alternative in the struggle against national oppression. To critique the national liberation without attacking national oppression is to attack the immune system without trying to cure the disease.
  3. Our critiques of national liberation should focus on it’s inability to achieve the emancipation of nationally oppressed workers, not that it “divides the working class”. National oppression divides the class, not national liberation.
  4. When there are “fully developed” wars of national liberation we must defend the right of oppressed nationality workers to protect themselves from state and chauvinist violence. We must seek to create independent class organs of self defense, and support struggles that tend to unite the entire class. Many struggles that help nationally oppressed workers will hurt workers of the oppressor nation in the short term, but they will help them in the long term. Our propaganda should focus on this, because moralizing at oppressed nation workers never works. If it proves impossible to convince oppressor nation workers to join the internationalist cause, we will keep on the struggle while ceasing our appeal to oppressor workers.
  5. Many times struggles by oppressed workers will begin to threaten the capitalist order, when this happens the oppressed nation bourgeois will use the language of national liberation to bring the workers to heel. They will accuse the workers of threatening national unity, or of hurting the war effort. When this happens we must support the workers, and against bourgeois blackmail. We must take a revolutionary defeatist line even in this case, turn the national liberation war into a civil war.


These are provisional proposals, and have been developed primarily from reading and individual thinking. They have not been tested in reality, and should be treated as such.