Fianna Fáil and the Working Class, 1926–38
The relationship between a political party and the social classes from which it draws support is multifaceted and fraught with conceptual difficulties. In proposing to examine Fianna Fáil’s relationship with the working class in Ireland during the party’s formative years I am certainly not supposing that there is any easy or straightforward relationship between social class membership (itself a problematic category) and electoral or political behaviour. Rather, I have explicitly argued elsewhere1 that both the ‘vulgar Marxist’ tendency towards economic reductionism and romantic leftism’s instinctive explanation for the weakness of working-class politics and the failure of socialist revolution to materialise — ‘betrayal’ of the working class by its ‘leaders’ — must be eschewed if we are to get to grips with the complexities of politics.2 In my previous work on Fianna Fáil3 I have attempted to analyse its rise to hegemony in the Ireland of the 1930s in the context of a successful political strategy that incorporated large swathes of working-class, small farmer, petty bourgeois and déclassé support behind a project that aimed at the transformation of Irish society through the consolidation of a new national bourgeoisie. In the process, the party succeeded in outflanking various romantic republican leftist movements that sporadically questioned its leadership, outpolled the Labour Party amongst urban workers, and divided and contained the organised trade union movement.
KeywordsTrade Union Labour Party Charismatic Leadership Political Mobilisation Labour Leader
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 1.Richard Dunphy, ‘The enigma of Fianna Fáil: party strategy, social classes and the politics of hegemony’, in M. Cronin and J.M. Regan (eds.), Ireland: The Politics of Independence, 1922–1949 (Basingstoke, 2000).Google Scholar
- 6.B.C. Smith, Understanding Third World Politics: Theories of Political Change and Development (Basingstoke, 1996), p. 202.Google Scholar
- 10.John A. Murphy, Ireland in the Twentieth Century (Dublin, 1975), pp. 111–12.Google Scholar
- 13.C.S. Andrews, Man of No Property (Dublin, 1982), p. 29.Google Scholar
- 18.J.J. Lee and Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, The Age of de Valera (Dublin, 1983), p. 104.Google Scholar
- 24.M. Mann, ‘Sources of variation in working-class movements in twentieth century Europe’, New Left Review, vol. 212 (July/August 1995), pp. 14–54.Google Scholar
- 30.D.R. O’Connor Lysaght, ‘The rake’s progress of a syndicalist. The political career of William O’Brien, Irish labour leader’, Saothar: Journal of Irish Labour History, vol. 9 (1985), pp. 48–62.Google Scholar
- 32.Ellen Hazelkorn, ‘Rejoinder to Enda McKay, “The Irish Labour Party, 1927–1933”’, Saothar: Journal of Irish Labour History, vol. 12 (1987), pp. 7–8.Google Scholar