This book examines the evolution of industrial unrest from 1917 to 1923. It seeks to show how syndicalism permeated the character of trade union agitation and had an increasingly important bearing on the style and course of conflict up to 1923.
Irish syndicalism originated in the ideas and example of Connolly and Larkin. However, this study is concerned more with the context and conditions that enabled syndicalism to have such an exceptional impact on trade unionism. In particular it is argued that the undeveloped state of the labour movement in an economically marginal but politically advanced society made Ireland a typical location for syndicalism.
Although cast in a more conservative mould, the leaders who succeeded Connolly and Larkin embraced industrial unionism as a developmental strategy that would modernise and decolonise the movement. Industrial action together with official backing for direct action in support for the post-war movement made the syndicalist moment in Ireland.
The central focus of the book is on the character of mass militancy, its implications for ideology, and the challenge it offered to trade union leaders. The conservative response is examined also, especially the ambiguous role of the republicanism in pushing labour to the left.