OBrien, James Bronterre

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

O’Brien, James Bronterre


Born Feb. 6, 1802, in Granard, County Longford, Ireland; died Dec. 2, 1864, in London. One of the leaders of the Chartist movement in Great Britain.

During the 1830’s, O’Brien worked as a radical journalist and was editor of a number of Chartist publications. In his own articles he attempted to provide a theoretical and historical basis for the demands of the Chartists. In O’Brien’s outlook, ideas on the importance of popular revolution, on class contradictions in bourgeois society, and on political struggle as a means of social transformation were interpreted, on the whole, in the spirit of R. Owen’s socialist ideals. O’Brien’s socialism, however, was combined with petit bourgeois radical utopianism. Thus, while he considered the nationalization of land as the principal means of achieving social equality, O’Brien regarded private ownership of the means of production as an institution compatible with socialism.

Although he had defended revolutionary methods before 1848, O’Brien became the advocate of solely peaceful reforms after the 1848 Irish uprising. His followers organized a reformist faction within the Chartist movement. However, the National Reform League, founded by O’Brien in 1849, later joined the First International.


The Rise, Progress and Phases of Human Slavery. London, 1885.
The Life and Character of M. Robespierre, vol. 1. London [1837].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.