Next week marks the anniversaries of the murders of two great revolutionaries, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and Seamus Costello, thinkers and fighters who were murdered ten years apart.
Che was murdered (executed) in Bolivia on October 9, 1967 while Seamus was murdered in Dublin on October 5, 1977.
Seamus was kind of Ireland’s Che Guevara. While Guevara was joining forces with the Castro brothers and the July 26 Movement, Seamus at just 16 years old joined the IRA and took part in the ‘border campaign’. Already his talents were leading to him being dubbed ‘the boy general’.
While Che was part of the revolutionary government in Cuba in the early 1960s and then went to fight in the Congo and, subsequently, Bolivia where he was captured and executed without trial, Seamus had become a member of the Army Council, the 7-person central leadership of the IRA and was to the forefront of the political rethinking that was going on in IRA and SF following the defeat of the ‘border campaign’.
With the 1969/1970 split in the Republican Movement, resulting in the ‘Officials’ and ‘Provisionals’, Seamus was a key figure in the Officials. However, the Officials’ commitment to revolutionary socialism was quickly replaced by a virulent strand of pro-Moscow reformism and they began quickly to retreat on the national question and the armed struggle, In 1974 Seamus, who was the chief internal critic of the drift of the Officials, led his supporters out of the Officials and established the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the INLA. The new movement attracted a layer of revolutionary-left activists including Bernadette Devlin.
The Officials, who had been overtaken by the (originally smaller) Provisionals were determined not to allow themselves to be outflanked from the left and began to try to violently suppress the IRSP. Several activists in the IRSP were murdered and the IRSP struck back in defence.
The Officials’ central leadership then decided to kill Costello and he was shot dead while sitting in his car in the centre of Dublin. Miriam Daly then took over as chair of the IRSP before she too was murdered – this time by the UDA during the 1981 hunger strikes.
On Seamus Costello see: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/remembering-seamus-costello-1939-1977/ (this includes an excellent talk given by Louise Minihan of eirigi a couple of years ago)
Bernadette Devlin tribute to Seamus: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/remembering-seamus-costello-outstanding-irish-revolutionary/
Miriam Daly tribute to Seamus: https://theirishrevolution.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/miriam-daly-on-seamus-costello/
And see the text of a key 1969 speech of Costello: “On Democracy and the Mass Movement”: https://theirishrevolution.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/seamus-costello-democracy-and-the-mass-movement-speech-feb-1969/
On Che, see The Legacy of Che Guevara: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/the-legacy-of-che/
Che’s African Dream: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/in-review-che-in-africa/
Che’s message to the Tricontinental: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/ches-message-to-the-tricontinental-1967/