Level of Economic Development
(IRSP Pamphlet Reprint)

The author and original date of publication of this historical IRSP document is unknown, but it was part of a series of pamphlets produced by the IRSP to give the working class of Ireland a clear vision of the IRSP's policies.

The 26 counties of Ireland can be categorised as a medium developed capitalist country. We mean by this that it has reached such a stage of development (where monopoly capitalism is dominant and finance capital has emerged) that it can no longer be designated an underdeveloped country.

In world terms, the collapse of the colonial system, begun after the first World War and greatly accelerated between the end of the Second World War and the 1960's, was a great blow to imperialism. It meant a new approach was needed to ensure continued imperialist exploitation. The answer was neo-colonialism.

Imperialists ruled through the ruling class of the nominally independent country. In a general sense this still holds true of the ex-colonies. At the same time imperialism had to ensure that the underdeveloped countries remained in the capitalist system, thus a certain amount of development in both social and economic terms was essential.


The medium developed capitalist country has reached a stage of impasse. It has succeeded in using state capitalism (ie. direct state involvement) to develop its own capitalism. The monopoly capitalism and the finance capital that emerged from such a forcibly-accelerated process does not rest on a long-term developed economic basis.

Ireland's economic basis has only in comparatively recent times moved from the agricultural to the industrial. The accumulation of capital has been much more rapid than in the underdeveloped countries but much less than is needed to bring the country on a par with the advanced countries. There is also a dependence economically on the advanced countries.

In the 70's, the 26 counties had the fastest growing economy in Europe. This massive growth was largely accounted for by the arrival of 900 foreign-owned firms since 1975. These transnational companies were encouraged or rather bribed to set up shop here. Massive tax concessions, direct grants, the proximity of the large European Market and cheap labour (with "docile" unions) were the attractions. Although they transformed the outward appearance of the national economy, the profits are naturally repatriated to the parent companies.

The advanced countries can soften their class contradictions, for eg. the British monopolies derive the vast majority of their profits, not from exploitation of their own workers, but from foreign investments and the expoitation of under-developed countries. Thus, they are able to create a labour aristocracy and in fact gave a middle-class consciousness (bourgeois) to large sections of the working class.

It has been a consistent policy of British imperialism to maintain a protestant labour aristocracy, thus tying their interests to imperialism. The 26 counties are unable to do this, plus they have incurred a huge national debt in the provision of the industrial infrastructure for the transnationals.

The 26 county working class is therefore faced with massive exploitation through providing profits for the transnationals and native capital, and through oppressive taxation in order to pay off the national debt. Capitalism in the 26 counties is unable to alleviate basic social problems, and in fact is in the process of cutting back on health, education and general social spending, thus again hitting the working class (employed and unemployed) hardest. Thus the objective conditions in the 26 counties can be said to be ripe or at least ripening for revolution.


The six county statelet is of course directly tied both economically and politically through armed occupation to the advanced state of Britain. In its actual economic make-up, however, it is considered to be on the same level of economic development by the E.C. as the 26 counties.

However, the largest section of the six counties organised workforce has up until very recent times benefited from the British economic ability to bribe its workforce. Since the vast bulk of organised labour in the six counties is from a loyalist background, there is a general reinforcement of the division of the working class in Ireland as a whole. Although there is a revolutionary situation in the six counties it is largely tied to national aspiration or at least is perceived as such. There is a lack of a clear revolutionary perspective and therefore an inability to link the national and class struggle but the subjective conditions exist despite British attempts to crush them.

In the 26 counties on the other hand, the objective conditions for a revolutionary situation exist and are increasingly developng due to the instability of the world capitalist system. However, the subjective conditions lag behind. The unions collaborate with the government and the only parties in a position to receive the vote in the Dail elections are themselves pro-imperialists (The Workers Party and Labour Party).

Only a revolutionary communist party can provide the leadership necesary for the overthrow of the capitalist state.