Over the recent period a serious rupture in the longstanding political relationship between the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) and the Connolly Youth Movement (CYM) has taken place when, on 9th January at its extraordinary Ard Fheis, members of the latter voted to remove their support for the Programme of the CPI. This was then followed up on 17th January with a ‘CYM Statement on Disaffiliation’.
The Communist Party of Ireland has had a long history with the Connolly Youth Movement since the Party established the CYM in 1965, sharing a common revolutionary ideology and allowing for dual membership. The Party has given CYM material and financial support over the decades, as well as the use of Party facilities and offices, enabling it to run meetings, education schools, and campaigns, as well as providing campaign and education materials. Whilst there has been a longstanding and comradely relationship, and close cross-body work between the two organisations, there was no official affiliation between the CPI and the CYM.
The relationship between the two organisations had remained complementary since CYM’s foundation in 1965 until 2016, when the CYM and its leadership started to move in an increasingly divergent political direction to that of the CPI. Changes to the CYM constitution over the past number of years shifted the longstanding relationship from being constructive to being competitive and antagonistic, exemplified in its change from being supportive to being a fraternal organisation of the CPI, akin to the relationship some international parties hold. These changes, initiated by the CYM leadership, gave rise to conflicts and problems with holding dual membership.
It was not just the political differences that caused the fundamental shift in the CPI-CYM relationship, but the political aspirations of key figures within CYM leadership to mount a challenge for the leadership of the CPI, without having broad support within the Party. With this fact in mind, at its ‘CYM 1970-2020 Congress’, a motion was passed instructing that “All members are to apply for membership [of the CPI] and find a means to engage in a limited capacity”.
This motion was proposed and passed without prior consultation with the CPI and without extending an invitation to members of the CPI’s leading body, the National Executive Committee (NEC). This had been a custom extended to the CPI; had CPI representatives been made aware of such a motion, they would have strongly advised against its adoption. An attempt to join en masse shortly followed in 2020 but was halted by the Party until bilateral discussions could take place to discuss this highly irregular behaviour, as well as to discuss the noticeable differences between both organisations. Unfortunately attempts to resolve these matters were not successful in light of bad-faith practices by leading elements of the CYM.
The CPI has always respected the contribution of CYM activists over the decades, many of whom have gone on to join in the ranks of the Party. However, the attempt to establish a narrative about ‘a clique surrounding the main leadership’ (i.e. the democratically elected National Executive Committee of the Party), over the much more mundane realities of internal party democracy and discipline, is a transparent attempt to divert blame for the factional approach, actions and activities of some dual members, which include:
- Adopting a line in the CPI from an external organisation
- Leaking Party documents to non-members
- Discussing and voting on Party work with non-members outside the CPI
- Dual members boycotting meetings and activities
- Dual members disrupting branch meetings
Far from the fantasy of a ‘clique’ controlling the Party, the CPI was left with no choice but to defend its democratic structures, resulting in action being taken by the appropriate bodies of the Party against a very small number of dual members who were found to be in serious breach of Party rules and discipline. Those individuals refused to accept or abide by the sanctions that followed.
This campaign to discredit the CPI and its elected leadership continued in an attempt to bypass the democratic processes of the CPI. On numerous occasions these now expelled Party members placed their individual ambitions and loyalty to the CYM above that of the Party. Furthermore, they attempted to leverage their positions within CYM to manoeuvre their way into leadership roles within the Party, despite failing to gain broad support from the existing CPI membership. As most will appreciate, this is a form of behaviour which would not be tolerated in any club or organisation, much less a communist party.
It is regretful that the bond of solidarity and cooperation between CPI and CYM has now degenerated into a hostile one. A relationship, which had lasted over five decades, has been derailed by the political ambitions of a few divisive individuals within the leadership of the CYM.
These are challenging times, but the CPI will continue to earnestly fight for, help, organise and support the hopes and aspirations of the youth of Ireland in a movement representative of the revolutionary theory and programme of the CPI. We have no wish nor desire to enter into a protracted public discourse around this unnecessary rupture; the struggle for Connolly’s goal of a Workers’ Republic remains the goal of the Communist Party of Ireland.