12 thoughts on “Ireland, World War I, and capitalism and democracy today

  1. Pingback: Anti-war comics about World War I | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  3. Saturday 26th March 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    100 years on from the famed occupation of Dublin’s General Post Office by Irish independence fighters, JOHN ELLISON shines a light on the valour of Joe Good, who travelled from London to play his part in the struggle

    AT Easter 1916, a whole century ago, a band of Irish men and women, amid the unceasing slaughter of the world war, sought to achieve by force full independence for Britain’s oldest colony.

    Estimates vary, but perhaps around 1,300 independence fighters, among them a young London-born electrician named Joe Good, equipped with revolvers, hand grenades, shotguns and often antiquated rifles, occupied Dublin’s General Post Office and a number of other points around central Dublin.

    Outside the Post Office Patrick Pearse proclaimed the Irish Republic. A hastily gathered-up 20,000-strong British force, poised to use machine guns and artillery liberally, was pitted against the tiny rebel army.

    On the first day of fighting, the young electrician was posted on O’Connell Bridge when asked by a passer-by if the military were after him. He replied calmly that the boot was on the other foot.

    Six days of bloody fighting ended with honours of war granted to the surviving rebels, who with dignity and in military formation laid down their arms.

    The independence fighters were composed of the nationalist Irish Volunteers, and a much smaller Citizens Army led by self-taught socialist leader and theoretician James Connolly.

    Evidently their attempt might have been more militarily sustainable had the huge odds against them not been lengthened by two events: the interception by the British navy of a German shipload of rifles and ammunition intended for the rebels, and the standing down of many volunteers around the country by their figurehead commander, who regarded their role as defensive, not offensive.

    But the rising was the spark that ignited the fire compelling the independence of most of Ireland five years later.

    As socialist historian Kieran Allen states in his recently published 1916: Ireland’s Revolutionary Tradition: “The 1916 rebellion set off a chain of events which expelled British rule from the 26 counties … What started as an insurrection of the few became a revolt of the many.”

    Surprising Ireland’s British rulers — who waved away warning signals — the rising began on Easter Monday, April 24 1916, and ended with surrender the following Saturday.

    News of the rising reached Downing Street after midnight on that first day. Prime minister Herbert Asquith made the comment, his Cabinet secretary recorded: “Well, that’s really something.” And it was “really something.”

    Scoffed at as a display of self-indulgence by poets and dreamers, there was not much about the rising that was poetic or dreamy; unless it was poetic and dreamy for those most angry about Ireland’s colonial status to risk their lives to end it.

    More than 300 perished during the fighting, before the Asquith-approved revenge military executions of 15 of their leaders (he refused the generals more), including Pearse and the badly wounded Connolly. Over 100 British soldiers also died.

    So much is widely known. What is less known is the part played by men of Irish origin from London, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

    Among these was Good. In his own words, he was one of the “sons and daughters who were driven out of Ireland by the famine and Irish landlordism.”

    Two years before the rising he was enrolled in a London group of Irish Volunteers which included future guerilla leader Michael Collins.

    In January 1916 the Conscription Act, from which Ireland was excluded for the time being, was passed. It required registration for military service.

    Twenty-year-old British-born Good had no intention of registering. He believed that the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond, which had colluded with Britain’s larger war from its outset and encouraged voluntary recruiting of Irishmen for its armies, would “only make a whingeing protest when conscription was applied to Ireland.”

    In February 1916 he travelled to Dublin to train for the rising, whenever it should come.

    Good’s personal recollections of the preparation for the revolt, of combat during the six days, of surrender and internment, and of the independence struggle that followed, were not committed to paper until 1946.

    They were published in paperback last year as Inside the GPO: A First-Hand Account. His account is remarkable for its modesty, its extraordinary freshness, its perceptions of people and incidents, and its humanity.

    The Irish Volunteers lacked the socialist outlook of the Irish Citizens Army led by Connolly.

    Ireland was, of course, even less ripe for a socialist revolution than it was for an immediate united Ireland.

    But Connolly’s position was firm. “In the event of victory,” he told the Citizens Army, “hold on to your rifles, as those with whom we are fighting may stop before our goal is reached. We are out for economic as well as political liberty.” Connolly’s revolutionary stance was deeply influenced by the conviction that a socialist revolution was realistically at hand in a world convulsed by a war of conflicting imperial ambitions, inseparable from advanced capitalism in self-destruct mode.

    From February to Easter 1916 Good was one of about 90 people from Britain’s cities, particularly Liverpool, who were quartered in a mill at Kimmage, where they drilled, filled shotgun cartridges with pellets and made crude hand grenades.

    They became the Kimmage Company. He was in the thick of the fighting from April 24, at first stationed on O’Connell Bridge, and later in nearby buildings.

    With others he retreated into the General Post Office, from which evacuation was eventually necessitated by fire and destruction.

    Good refers with admiration to the female Volunteers — the League of Women (Cumann na mBan) — some with Red Cross aprons, others in fighting kit. (“What about women’s rights?” was a demand he heard from a group of these when their evacuation from the Post Office was insisted upon by Patrick Pearse.)

    Newspaper condemnation of the rising was almost universal. On May 13, however, a sympathetic report of the rising appeared in the small circulation East End-based Women’s Dreadnought, edited by socialist and Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst.

    It was the work of 18-year-old Patricia Lynch, who had been sent to Dublin in response to the rising.

    She wrote of what she had seen: “In O’Connell Street and Eden Quay the dust was still thick upon the ground, the air was heavy with burning and dense clouds of smoke obscured the ruins.”

    An elderly woman, whose only son had been killed in the fighting, told her, in view of the huge amount of ammunition used to put down the rebels, that the English did not hate the Germans as they hated the Irish.

    Pankhurst had written a week before: “Justice can make but one reply to the Irish rebellion, and that is to demand that Ireland shall be allowed to govern herself.”

    Over a short time the rebellion was adopted by much of Ireland as its own, bolstering the independence movement, a process reinforced by the world war, in which the Somme battle wrote another vast casualty list from July 1 (Irish soldiers killed — 3,500).

    The interned rebels, including Good, Collins and other future guerilla leaders, were shipped back to England.

    First held in prison and then in Frongoch internment camp in Wales, Good was one of many who steadfastly refused to give their names and addresses to conceal the identities of those liable to conscription.

    The internees were released just before Christmas 1916. Good returned to Ireland, and after more, and often very dangerous, activity in the cause of independence, resumed civilian life eventually as an electrician. He died in Ireland in 1962.

    Connolly’s case for a future socialist society remains alive and well, set out in exceptionally lucid essays, such as Labour in Irish History.

    There he stated: “The whole age-old fight of the Irish people against their oppressors resolves itself in the last analysis into a fight for the means of the mastery of life, the sources of production, in Ireland.”

    Elsewhere he wrote: “Every member of the investing classes is interested to the extent of his investments, present or prospective, in the subjection of Labour all over the world. That is the internationality of capital and capitalism.”

    Connolly’s case for national independence and for socialism is ours too.

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-bbf8-A-forgotten-hero-of-the-Easter-Rising#.VvZjyHptc4A

    See also here.

  4. Monday 28th
    posted by Morning Star in Editorial

    IRISH people everywhere can celebrate this year’s centenary of the Easter Rising with pride.

    Patriots and democrats everywhere, whether atheists or not, can only be inspired by the opening words of the proclamation posted by the “Provisional Government of the Irish Republic” on the walls of the General Post Office in O’Connell Street, Dublin, on April 24 1916.

    “Irishmen and Irishwomen: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”

    That Irish republicans asserted this right in arms does not detract in the slightest from the fundamental justice of their cause.

    After all, Ireland had been conquered and suppressed by English military force for more than 700 years.

    Indeed, it was the brutality of the British state’s reprisals which turned the leaders of the Easter Rising into heroes and martyrs, laying the basis for Sinn Fein’s stunning election victories in 1918 and the subsequent war of independence.

    Certainly, it ill-behoves the mass media in Britain today to question the morality of the Easter Rising because it involved the use of violence.

    Apart from the fact that the rebels took every care not to endanger the lives of civilians, British imperialism has inflicted massacres on the peoples of every continent in the course of its blood-drenched escapades, right up to the present day in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The 1916 proclamation continued: “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.” This right could, according to the seven signatories, only be exercised in the Irish Republic as a “sovereign independent state.”

    This has been the basis on which the Republic of Ireland has long abjured both nuclear weapons and membership of Nato.

    Yet its founding principles of sovereignty and independence have been fatally compromised by Irish membership of the European Union, as Irish Congress of Trade Unions president Brian Campfield pointed out in his recent Highgate oration at the grave of Karl Marx. This is especially so now that the basic treaties of the EU provide for a common security and defence policy that must be compatible with Nato and contribute to the latter’s “vitality.”

    But it is not only the EU which violates the principles of 1916. The division of Ireland imposed by its British rulers in 1922 has verified the grim prophecy of the great socialist and Easter Rising martyr James Connolly — namely that partition would mean a “carnival of reaction both North and South,” setting back the wheels of progress and destroying the prospect of labour movement unity.

    Backed by the EU, reactionary governments in Dublin have pursued policies that make a mockery of the 1916 proclamation that the Irish Republic guarantees “equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”

    Together with reactionary unionist regimes in the north, nationalist governments in the south have resisted full reproductive rights for women.

    But the Irish trade union and communist movements have established united organisation across the state and sectarian divides.

    To them falls the task of uniting the people of Ireland in sovereignty, independence and the common ownership of their country.

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-296f-Be-proud-of-Easter-Rising#.Vvlr2HoYMdU

  5. Tuesday, 29 March 2016

    THE ESSENCE OF THE EASTER RISING!

    THE bourgeois media has been awash this weekend with coverage of the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin, with reports on the re-enactments of events 100 years ago and of wreath-laying ceremonies commemorating ‘the courage and ideals’ of the 15 revolutionary leaders who were executed.

    What was surprising to many was the absence of any condemnation of these revolutionary leaders like James Connolly and Padraig Pearse or the usual dismissal of the Easter Rising as a disastrous adventure carried out by madmen.

    Indeed the tone of the coverage was conciliatory in the extreme, with the Telegraph carrying an article which called for the British government to apologise to the Irish people for the ‘catastrophic mistake’ made by British imperialism in 1916. The catastrophic mistake was clearly the summary execution of these revolutionaries, an act which inflamed the Irish people and provided the spark for the rebellion against British colonial rule which led to the Irish war of independence and the creation in 1922 of the Irish Free State.

    If only the British state had handled things differently, the inference is, the rebellion would have fizzled out and the revolutionary struggle for independence could have been avoided – smothered by kindness. This ‘smothering by kindness’ is in evidence as the bourgeoisie tries to sweep the revolutionary content of the uprising aside and transform it into a ‘celebration’ of the Irish republic, which today is shackled and under the domination of the EU and the bankers.

    This was explicitly stated by the Irish president, Michael Higgins. In his address, he said: ‘We can see that in many respects we have not fully achieved the dreams and ideals for which our forebears gave so much. A democracy is always and must always be a work in progress. . .’ Higgins was putting it mildly!

    The declaration of 1916 proclaimed the ‘right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and the unfettered control of Irish destinies’. The reality couldn’t be more different today.

    The world banking crash of capitalism in 2008 had a devastating effect on the Irish economy as Irish banks and speculators went under. The then Fianna Fail government went begging to the Troika – the EU, ECB and IMF – for a $67 billion bailout of the banks, this was given on condition that the banks and speculators were exempted from having to pay up and that the money was found through savage austerity cuts.

    Since then 500,000 young people have been forced to emigrate, child poverty has nearly doubled, unemployment has shot up and wages have been reduced by 15% as the country was looted by the Troika. This has produced an acute crisis for the bourgeoisie as reflected in the elections held in February – Eire does not have a government!

    What it does have, is a massive movement of the working class to restore all that was taken away in the crash, with all kinds of new movements and parties emerging – at the same time as in the north of Ireland there is a growing crisis over wages, jobs, and the NHS, all under heavy attack from a Tory government in London and its northern Executive, that includes Sinn Fein.

    At the same time, across the water the Tory government is split and divided. Britain is paralysed by the crisis and is close to having no government either! A Tory civil war is raging over the EU, while the big banks are shaking at the prospect that the UK may soon be out of it!

    These are clearly revolutionary times, when the Irish revolution has to be completed and the whole of Ireland united under a workers government, alongside the British socialist revolution!

    Once again, these are revolutionary times. This is why the powers that be are all dancing so gingerly around the 1916 Rising – because an even bigger one is being created by the crisis of capitalism, in Ireland, the UK, and throughout Europe!
    The Easter Rising is indeed a ‘work in progress’ but the progress is that of the developing European socialist revolution.

    James Connolly expressed this essence when he wrote: ‘If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.’ The heroes of the Easter Rising have the honour of being among the first to embark on the struggle for the socialist revolution – the Bolsheviks carried it forward in October 1917, and now it is our turn!

    http://wrp.org.uk/news/11950

  6. Monday 4th April 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Arts

    Hidden Heroes of Easter Week
    by Robin Stocks
    (Self-published, £14.99)

    Publications about the lives of working-class men and women who willingly volunteer to take part in conflicts such as the Easter rebellion in Ireland are always welcome and, at its 100th anniversary, this one is particularly timely.

    Drawing on the pension files of the Irish military archives, Robin Stocks narrates some of the stories of the Manchester and Stockport men and women who took part in the rising in Dublin in 1916.

    It’s believed that nearly 100 volunteers, including Michael Collins from London, travelled to Ireland early in 1916 to take part in the much anticipated rebellion. They included Liam Parr, Gilbert Lynch, Larry Ryan, Redmond Cox and Sheila O’Hanlon, all of whom had lived in England for most or part of their lives.

    As with so many of the rank-and-file volunteers who went to fight in Spain later, it is difficult to get a full picture of their part in the conflict, or their lives in general. To overcome this, the author has cleverly filled in the gaps with the records and testimonies of other comrades who were with them at the time.

    The rebellion is set in the context of an era in which two-thirds of working-class Dubliners were living in substandard housing and the infant mortality rate was the highest of any city in Europe.

    The exploitation of workers also led to industrial unrest, the biggest dispute being the Dublin lockout of the city’s dockers in 1913.

    Despite the rise in Irish nationalism, many thousands of Irishmen rallied to the British flag and were thrown into the slaughter in France during WWI.

    This meant that the rebellion, when it came, was met with outright hostility among a large proportion of the population.

    Indeed, it was the start of conscription in England in February 1916 that led to the Manchester volunteers surreptitiously making their way to Ireland and hiding out until Easter and the start of the rebellion.

    The six days of the rebellion are related using the words of those who were there, with all attendant emotion, heroism and sacrifice — especially given that it was a completely hopeless enterprise from the start.

    The book is very well referenced, with a comprehensive index for anyone wishing to follow through on what is clearly a meticulous piece of research bringing the events of Easter 1916 in Dublin to vivid life.

    Details of how to purchase the book are available at hiddenheroesofeasterweek.wordpress.com

    Review by Alan Lloyd

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-fddf-Heroes-of-Easter-Rising-come-to-life#.VwI-YnoYMdV

  7. Tuesday 26th April 2016

    posted by Morning Star in World

    by Our Foreign Desk

    HISTORIANS are publishing a major archive of bulletins from the 1916 Easter Rising to mark the 100th anniversary of this landmark event on the road to Irish independence.

    Website http://www.1916live.com began posting the documents from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library on Sunday. Twitter users can also follow the releases on the @1916live handle.

    The documents span the course of the rebellion, from the outbreak of fighting on April 24 to the surrender of the rebel headquarters on April 29.

    Many are time-stamped to the minute, allowing the public to trace the course of events as they unfolded.

    Top Dublin Castle civil servant Sir Matthew Nathan compiled the documents for the royal commission of inquiry into the rising in its immediate aftermath and took them out of Ireland in his personal papers after the revolution had been crushed.

    They were given to the Bodleian Libraries following his death.

    “They give an extraordinarily vivid street-level view of the rising hour by hour,” said Bodleian Libraries head of special collections Mike Webb.

    “They include hundreds of Dublin Metropolitan Police messages, scribbled onto pink sheets of paper apparently taken from message pads.

    The project has been carried out by a team of volunteers led by journalist Naomi O’Leary in conjunction with the libraries.

    “I became fascinated by these documents the moment I first came across them while conducting research for a documentary,” she said.

    “Many of them are clearly written in great urgency in the middle of the upheaval of the Easter Rising and their concision and immediacy makes them a gripping account of this key moment in our history.”

    Ms O’Leary said it was particularly appropriate to publish the 100-year-old telephone messages on social media as they represent the use of a relatively new form of instant communication at the time.

    EASTER RISING AS IT HAPPENED – IN THEIR WORDS

    23.4.1916 – Irish politician John Dillon, in letter to Ireland under-secretary Matthew Nathan: “I have heard much disquieting rumours as to mischief brewing — I trust they are without foundation.”

    24.4.1916 – The superintendent of G Division in a phone message to Viceregal Lodge, the residence of Lord Lieutenant Lord Wimborne: “The Sinn Fein volunteers have attacked the castle and have possession of the GPO. They have Stephen’s Green Park in their hands and have turned out the people and locked the gates.”

    25.4.1916 – Constable Heffernan in a phone message to Dublin Metropolitan Police Chief Commissioner: “While in plain clothes at North King St endeavouring to purchase bread, I was made prisoner by the Sinn Fein volunteers … I did not know any of the volunteers, but think they were all Dublin men and would know them again. Commandant Daly’s name was mentioned. The majority were in plain clothes, wearing green hats.”

    27.4.1916 – The police chief superintendent in a phone message to the chief commissioner: “Count Plunkett lives at 26 Fitzwilliam Street and his daughters have been seen getting in large quantities of provisions these last few days and it is believed things are not right there.”

    29.4.1916 – The caretaker at the 15 Eden Quay City of Dublin Steam Packet Company offices in telephone message to police: “My wife, three children and myself are starving here and the military will not allow us out. Could you please do something for us?”

    The superintendent of the police’s A Division in a phone message to the chief superintendent: “The Citizens’ Army are still in possession of Jacobs and they have hoisted the republican flag for the past hour from the highest tower of the building and they state the truce is only until Monday and that they will not surrender but will start fighting again on Monday when the truce is over.”

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-d31a-Archive-of-messages-offers-hour-by-hour-view-of-Easter-Rising#.Vx8DVXoYMdU

  8. Pingback: May Day and peace, 1916-2016 | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  9. 100 years ago: Leaders of Easter Uprising in Ireland executed

    Beginning on May 3, 1916, and continuing until May 12, British authorities carried out the execution by firing squad of 15 leaders of the failed Easter Uprising for Irish independence, including the socialist James Connolly.

    On April 24, the first day of the uprising, the British government had declared martial law in both the city and county of Dublin. General John Maxwell was sent to Dublin as head of the British army’s Irish Command, with dictatorial powers under martial law. At the same time the British government, simultaneously embroiled in World War I, took measures for persons to be court martialed under the Defence of the Realm Act.

    In the aftermath of the uprising, British forces arrested around 3,500 people who were either directly involved in the rebellion or who were thought to be sympathizers. Maxwell ordered that 183 of them be tried in a May 2, 1916, court martial held in secret without jury or defense counsel. Ninety were sentenced to death. Of those, 15 had their sentences confirmed by Maxwell and were shot by firing squad over the following 10 days.

    The secrecy surrounding the trials and the swift execution of those found guilty led to anger within the Irish working class. Worried about the reaction to the executions, bourgeois Irish parliamentarians warned the British government of the dangers of the increasing unrest throughout the country. John Dillon, a leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, said in the House of Commons, “Would not any sensible statesman think he had enough to do in Dublin and the other centres where disturbance broke out without doing everything possible to raise disturbance and spread disaffection over the whole country?”

    By May 8, British Prime Minister Asquith was insisting that the executions stop. Maxwell, however, insisted on carrying out two further executions, including that of the mortally wounded Connolly, a revolutionary socialist leader of the Irish working class injured in the fighting. Connolly was carried to the site of execution on a stretcher and then propped up in a chair to face the firing squad on May 12. He was the last Irish leader executed for the uprising.

    Following Connolly’s execution, Maxwell bowed to pressure and the other death sentences were commuted to penal servitude. Almost 2,000 men were imprisoned at internment camps and prisons throughout England and Wales.

    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/05/02/twih-m02.html

  10. Pingback: World War I Somme bloodbath, 100 years ago | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  11. Pingback: Passchendaele, World War I bloodbath of poets and other soldiers | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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