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Sean McLoughlin, Ireland's Forgotten Revolutionary

Even for those who consider themselves reasonably well-versed in the history of the Irish anti-imperialist rising of 1916 and the tumultuous events of the years which followed, there's every possibility that the name of at least one major participant Sean McLoughlin will not be overly familiar.

In most major studies of the period McLoughlin, whose conduct during the events of Easter week 1916 saw him promoted in the dying hours of the rising to the position of commandant-general of the forces of the Irish Republic, has until recently merited little more than a passing reference and the odd footnote, if mentioned at all.

Charlie McGuire's new book, which follows on from his political biography of Roddy Connolly, is therefore particularly welcome.

It charts the remarkable story of a man who progressed from republican to socialist and communist politics and who not only played a major part in Ireland's fight for freedom over several years but who also contributed to the struggle for revolutionary socialism in Britain in the early to mid-1920s.

That he survived the rising at all is nothing short of remarkable.

By rights, he should have been executed along with its other leaders.

The removal of his commandant tabs by a British military intelligence officer, apparently struck by McLoughlin's youth, undoubtedly saved his life.

McLoughlin went on to reorganise the the Irish Volunteer movement, helped develop the guerilla-type warfare employed with great success by the Irish in the War of Independence, fought on the anti-Treaty side in the civil war and was a founder member, along with Roddy Connolly, of Ireland's first avowedly communist party.

Closely associated with James Connolly's old party, the Socialist Labour Party, his political analysis and brilliant oratory skills were also in high demand in socialist circles in Britain.

This was especially so in Scotland and the north of England where he was eventually to settle, having moved permanently there in 1924.

McLoughlin is particularly important as his particular brand of socialist internationalism drew a direct link between the revolutionary struggle for Irish freedom and for socialism in Britain.

His analysis of the dependence of the Free State on British imperialism can also be seen as an early and important understanding of the impact of neo-colonialism.

But when McLoughlin died in 1960 in Sheffield his passing was unmarked on either side of the Irish Sea, other than by family and friends.

Citing a combination of factors, McGuire explores why this should have been the case in his conclusion.

These included the victory of bourgeois conservatism in the 26 counties, the neocolonial grip on the Free State exercised by Britain, republican and left-wing rivalries in both Ireland and Britain and the curtailment of McLoughlin's activism following the General Strike of 1926.

This book is absolutely essential for anyone interested in the struggles for Irish freedom and for socialism in Britain and goes a long way towards ensuring that McLoughlin is no longer Ireland's forgotten revolutionary.

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This document was last modified by Mick Carty on 2011-10-11 09:30:12.
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