Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

A 1936 Obituary : The first known Irish Supporter of Trotsky’s Left Opposition – TJ O’Flaherty (Tomás Ó Flatharta) – passed away on Inis Mór ( one of the Aran Islands)

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Gort na gCapall, Inishmore, Aran. Home of the Ó Flaithearta family.

Des Derwin drew our attention to this fascinating obituary.

Source :

‘T.J. O’Flaherty Dead’ from New Militant. Vol. 2 No. 22. June 6, 1936.

The New Militant learns with great sorrow of the sudden death in Ireland of comrade T.J. O’Flaherty, an adherent of “Trotskyism” from the first days of the formation of the Left Opposition in the United States and a firm supporter to his dying day of the movement for the Fourth International. On his deathbed all his thoughts and interests were with his comrades in the United States and to the last he had hopes to recover his health and to return to the States to function actively in the movement. He gave full support to the Workers Party of America upon its formation and viewed it as the first step in the process of unification of the genuine revolutionary elements who based themselves on the teachings of Lenin and Trotsky.

His sister, Anna Johnson, in a letter to comrade Martin Abern, writes from the Aran Isles, Ireland:

Letter from His Sister

“You will be surprised to hear that Tom has passed away. He died on May 19 from heart trouble. He came back here on January 15 after 18 months between Dublin and England. He was ill when he got back and got worse every day. You know he always suffered from heart trouble.

“It as very pitiful to see him suffer and he wanted so to get well. He lived those last months in New York and Chicago and was continually with you. He talked to all the other members of the Party and tried to persuade me in the morning that he actually was there. You see, I had to be continually with him night and day for the last five weeks. He was so nervous and was always fainting.

“It is now that his second book, Cliffmen of the West (a book on the agrarian northwest in the U.S.) is being advertised. And two weeks ago the publishers wrote for permission to sell the language rights, on a 50–50 basis.

“Tom received papers regularly from the U.S. but lately was unable to read them and was too weak to have them read to him. His sister Delia spared nothing on him; but it was no use; he was already far too ill when he returned home.”

He was 47 years of age.

Founder of Communist Movement

Comrade O’Flaherty was a revolutionist of many years standing. He participated in the Irish movement prior to coming to the United States in 1912, immediately joining the Socialist Party in Boston. He remained in the S.P. till the split in 1919 when he joined with the Left Wing and was one of the founders of the Communist movement in America, and a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party for many years. He was active during these many years particularly in the field of journalism, being one of the leading and popular writers In the revolutionary press. He was the first editor of the weekly, Voice of Labor in Chicago, official organ of the Communist Party. He was on the staff of The Worker and later on the Daily Worker, official organs of the Communist Party. He conducted, too, a special column in the Daily Worker under the caption, As We See It.

Comrade O’Flaherty was one of the band of Communists under indictment in the famous Bridgeman, Mich. case. He participated in that renowned underground C.P. convention as well as other convention gatherings of the revolutionary movement. He participated in the work of the International Labor Defense, and was a delegate to the International Red Aid Congress (Labor Defense) in Moscow.

Expelled as Left Oppositionist

When the Left Opposition was formed in November 1928 upon the expulsion of three members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Cannon, Shachtman and Abern) for support of the position of the Russian Opposition, comrade O’Flaherty was one of the first to announce his unqualified support to the Left Opposition and to join it. He became a member of the Communist League of America and. remained a firm supporter of the Fourth International movement led by L.D. Trotsky.

The December 15, 1928 issue of The Militant, organ of the Communist League (Opposition), announced comrade O’Flaherty’s adherence to the cause of the Bolshevik-Leninists as follows:

T.J. O’Flaherty, the most popular Communist propagandist in America and the writer of the famous Daily Worker column As We See It and a revolutionist of many years standing, has issued a statement setting forth his unconditional support of the Platform of the Russian Opposition and his solidarity with all comrades expelled for these views:

“After studying new material on the question of the Trotsky line in the C.P.S.U. and the Comintern,” said comrade O’Flaherty in his statement, “I have come to the conclusion that the line of the Russian Opposition led by comrade Trotsky is the correct Leninist line and therefore I associate myself with the position taken by comrade Cannon and his associates in the Workers (Communist) Party of America. They were unjustly expelled for attempting to explain to the membership of the Party the political line really advocated by Trotsky in the C.P.S.U. and the Comintern.”

Comrade O’Flaherty’s statement then went on to set forth his agreement with the position of the Russian Opposition on the various issues (Anglo-Russian Committee, Chinese Revolution, etc.).

The Communist Party forthwith expelled him.

Wrote for The Militant

Comrade O’Flaherty wrote for the Militant from time to time and participated in other activities. Interested in the agrarian problems, he proceeded to function for some years in the Northwest and edited the farmers’ publication, the Producer’s News (Plentywood, Mont). At the same time he was engaged in literary efforts. He was ill during all these years, particularly with his heart, for which he was taking treatment for many years. A little over two years ago he decided to pay a visit to his native home, on the wild spot, the Aran Isles, on which the famous film, Man of Aran, was made during the time. He lived the hard life that all must live on this barren place. During this time, he wrote and had published his first book, Aranmen All, based on life on the Isles. After a time, he left the Aran Isles and lived and labored in Dublin, London and other places in Great Britain, contributing articles from time to time to the labor press. He returned to the Aran Isles upon the completion of his second book, Cliffmen of the West where his persisting illness soon thereafter brought the peace of death to him.

Comrade O’Flaherty in a recent letter to comrades in New York expressed the hope and belief that he would soon return to the United States, health greatly improved and be able to continue his revolutionary activity more fully. He remained a revolutionist, a Bolshevik, to the end, and all his friends and comrades, who are legion, are glad to honor the memory of a revolutionary stalwart.

The New Militant was the weekly paper of the Workers Party of the United States and replaced The Militant in 1934, The Militant was a weekly newspaper begun by supporters of the International Left Opposition recently expelled from the Communist Party in 1928 and published in New York City. Led by James P Cannon, Max Schacthman, Martin Abern, and others, the new organization called itself the Communist League of America (Opposition) and saw itself as an outside faction of both the Communist Party and the Comintern. After 1933, the group dropped ‘Opposition’ and advocated a new party and International. When the CLA fused with AJ Muste’s American Workers Party in late 1934, the paper became the New Militant as the organ of the newly formed Workers Party of the United States.

One Response

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  1. Thank you. fascinating

    JOAN McKiernan

    Nov 24, 2022 at 2:55 pm

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