The Establishment of the Irish Citizen Army

Today, Anti Imperialist Action Ireland celebrates the 107th Anniversary of the establishment of the Irish Citizen Army by James Connolly and James Larkin, the Army of the Irish Working Class, fierce fighters of the Class and National Struggle and the first Red Army Europe.

In honour of this important occasion we publish an account of the establishment of the ICA 107 years ago today:

The Establishment of the Irish Citizen Army

The Irish Citizen Army was established on November 13 1913 in the fire of the Dublin Lockout, 107 years ago today.

In August of 1913, the Dublin Working Class rose up to take on the might of capitalism. Against them stood William Martin Murphy, his gang of 400 and the British State in Ireland. With them stood James Larkin, James Connolly and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.

This great class struggle, the Dublin Lockout, centred on the issue of ITGWU membership with Martin Murphy and the capitalists refusing to employ anyone who held membership of the Union. The workers stood defiant. On August 26 1913 Tram workers in Dublin began strike action for recognition of the Union, a strike that would soon result in 20,000 workers being locked out across the city.

On August 31 1913, the Dublin Metropolitan Police went on a rampage against striking workers and working class communities, baton charging a strike rally at O’Connell Street and arresting Larkin who had been addressing it. Two members of the Union, James Byrne and James Nolan died of their injuries. August 31 would become known as Irelands first Bloody Sunday, but it would not be the last. The funerals of the murdered strikers were attended by tens of thousands of people. ITGWU members formed a guard at the funerals marching in formation armed with pick axe handles topped with a cylinder of steel, to prevent mourners being attacked by the Police. It was into this battle ground that the Citizen Army was formed.

At a rally in Beresford Place to celebrate the release of Larkin, on November 13 1913, James Connolly announced the formation of the Irish Citizen Army. Before the huge crowed he said, ‘I am going to talk sedition. The next time we are out for a march I want to be accompanied by four battalions of trained men with their Corporals and Sergeants’. Connolly continued that all those willing to join the Citizen Army should give their names and they would be told when and where to attend for drilling and training. It is said over 1,000 hands were raised.

This was a key revolutionary moment in Irish history. The working class were organising independently on military lines and were preparing to strike out for their liberation.
Organising the Army now got immediately underway. With the strike still raging, Captain Jack White, a Socialist Republican and veteran of the Boer War, was enlisted to drill and train the Army. This was began in earnest and on November 23, just ten days later the Citizen Army made its first public appearance, drilling under Captain White at Croydon Park.

While formed to defend the workers from the police and the brutality of capitalism, it was quickly clear that the Irish Citizen Army was Socialist Republican in character and from the beginning its leadership had plans for the Army to play a full role in the struggle for National Liberation and Socialist. That ethos of the Army is clear from two quotes from its founders:

‘’We shall fight for the destruction of the British Empire and the construction of an Irish Republic’’.- Commandant James Larkin

“However it may be for others, for us of the Citizen Army there is but one ideal – an Ireland ruled, and owned, by Irish men and women, sovereign and independent from the centre of the sea, and flying its own flag outwards over all oceans”- Commandant General James Connolly

The Irish Citizen Army remains one of the most import organisations established by revolutionaries in this country, a fighting army of the working class that Lenin referred to as the First Red Army in Europe. Its fundamental principle, enshrining the class and national struggle as the one fight, is the roadmap to securing Freedom and Socialism in Ireland and the reestablishment on the All Ireland People’s Republic.

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