Connolly on Emmet’s rebellion
In chapter IX of Labour in Irish History, Connolly deals with Emmet’s movement and their rebellion in 1803. Connolly records they were even more politically radical than the original United Irish movement. This is because all that was left after the crushing of the 1798 rebellion were the rank and file plebeian elements, whereas the UI had been an alliance of the more radical section of the Protestant middle class and the Catholic peasantry. But Emmet’s group was more specifically working class – it was also tiny, as was the working class at the time.
It was less able to be infiltrated by the state as Irish workers were well used to secrecy because of the anti-trade union laws. Workers at the time made good underground activists. The area with the best-organised trades (weavers, tanners, shoemakers) was also the best-organised in Emmet’s rebellion in Dublin. Wicklow rebels brought to Dublin by Dwyer were, Connolly records, sheltered by dock labourers.
In Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary, rebellion was also working class-centred.
Emmet’s rebellion was very much economically-focussed. It brought together a working class social base and the national question. The class and national questions were merged. Emmet’s group also were linked to English radicals democrats, 8 of whom were hung.
Robert Emmet, records James Connolly, was “the Irish apostle of a worldwide movement for liberty, equality and fraternity.”
The manifesto of his rebellion was very much anti-clerical. The very first article decrees taking over and nationalising church property (the established church in Ireland at the time was, of course, the Church of Ireland) and bans the transfer of land, bonds, etc until public will and independent government is established.
Robert Emmet was probably the first major republican figure to so clearly merge the national and socio-economic. He realised that the exploited class – the emerging working class – had no reason to rally to independence unless they were freed from social bondage as well as British rule.
Subsequently, of course, he was hung, drawn and quartered by the British ‘civilisers’ of Ireland. His body was never returned to his family and its whereabout remains unknown.
Connolly’s view on the defeat of the clans
These are my notes on Connolly’s Labour in Irish History, chapt 8.
The defeat of 1641, according to Connolly, ended the old clan system. The involvement if old Anglo-Irish noblemen, he says, weakened the Irish side as they mainly wanted to maintain their own class position, in turn based on earlier confiscations. These contradictions meant they were riddled with equivocation and treachery. This movement of clans was huge and powerful, but had this fatal weakness: its own class divisions (like the Republican Movement in the Tan War period, I might add.)
With the destruction of clan society came a mixture of feudalism and capitalism, says Connolly.
He is very insightful about how the Protestant landed gentry and capitalists used more fanatically Protestant types to drive down the Catholic masses while, at the same time, exploiting the Protestant lower orders. (This is what later came to be in a really concentrated form, of course, in the six counties statelet.)
Incipient Irish capitalism was stymied by British rule, as the British capitalists did not want competition. But it reproduced opposition in Ireland over and over.
Once the economic reason ceased to drive Irish landlords and capitalists into opposition the upper elements ceased championing independence. Meanwhile, common suffering opened the way to the unity of Protestant and Catholic masses, argues Connolly.
The United Irish movement, he notes, represented the coming together of a series of developments in Irish society, an exceptional person (Tone) – or generation! – and a galvanising event (the French revolution).
Connolly notes how the French revolution changed the consciousness of both Catholics and Protestants, helping bring them together. Tensions between Catholics and Protestants gave way to conflict between the ruling class and a new force, which Connolly class “the democracy”. He reflects that Tone was waging a class war. It is very important to grasp that class war was key.
Moreover, United Irish and the English could only unite when Ireland was independent (a point very reminiscent of what Engels said.)
Connolly recorded that the aristocracy was “anti-freedom”, the Irish fight was part of a global struggle and that Irish fighters were allied with British revolutionaries. (Of course, today it is quite hard to find these today!) The Irish struggle represented what in those days were called “the rights of man” in Ireland.
Tone had asserted that when the aristocracy go forward, the people fall backward, and we might say that when the Irish capitalist class today run things, the masses (in particular, the working class, goes backwards).
Connolly records the celebrations in Belfast over the fall of the Bastille.
Lastly, in this chapter, he records that Tone was combining the national and the socio-economic. He was for making a revolution.
Now, we resume
Well, a month has gone by and nothing. But today or tomorrow I will be getting up some notes on Connolly’s Labour In Irish History from a study/discussion group organised by Eirigi. It’s a couple of chapters where I led the discussion, chapters 8 and 9, in particular dealing with Emmet’s rebellion, which was even more radical than the main United Irish movement which had been crushed in 1798. Emmet was the kind of “last gasp” of the UI movement and especially proletarian.
Getting going again
I’ve not been on-line much at all, in particular with this blog. However, I’m getting going again, so you will be able to expect this from later in the week. Is mise, Phil
Sinn Fein arse-kissers on death of British imperialist
Sinn Fein president and member of the Dublin partitionist parliament MaryLou McDonald on the death of the odious old reactionary husband of the Brit queen:
“Sincere condolences to Queen Elizabeth and family on the death of her husband Prince Phillip. Sympathies to those of a British identity on our island, for whom his death will be felt as a great loss. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.”
Sinn Fein deputy-leader and member of the northern partitionist parliament Michelle O’Neill:
“As Deputy First Minister I wish to extend my sincere condolences to Queen Elizabeth and her family on the death of her husband Prince Phillip.”
(with thanks to Liam O Ruairc for passing on these comments by McDonald and O’Neill.)
James Connolly on Wolfe Tone
The following article by Connolly appeared in Workers Republic (August 13, 1898); this was the paper of the Irish Socialist Republican Party, which Connolly had established in Dublin in 1896. The transcribing is by the James Connolly Society in 1997. The piece is taken from the Marxist Internet Archive.
Apostles of Freedom are ever idolised when dead, but crucified when living. Universally true as this statement is, it applies with more than usual point to the revolutionary hero in whose memory the Irish people will, on Monday, 15th August, lay the foundation stone of a great memorial.
Accustomed, as we are, to accept without question the statements of platform oratory or political journalism as embodying the veriest truths of history, the real meaning and significance of the life and struggles of the high-soured organiser of the United Irish movement of 1798 is too often lost to the people of Ireland today. We think with pride and joy of Wolfe Tone and his struggle for Ireland, but when we think of his enemies, of those who thwarted him at every opportunity, who ceased not to revile him while alive and paused not in their calumnies even when he had passed beyond the grave, we are too apt to forget that the most virulent and unforgiving of those enemies were not the emissaries of the British Crown, but the men from whose lips the cant of Read the rest of this entry
2021 Calendar – commemorating the 1981 hunger strike
Éirígí’s 2021 calendar is a very special one to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike.
Including information, artwork, photos and key dates relating to one of the most important events in modern Irish history, these are not to be missed.
Available for just €10 each, all proceeds go to help fund our campaigns, including housing, natural resources, an Teanga and to build support for a new all-Ireland Republic!
Éirígí does not receive any funding from the state or wealthy donors. And we don’t have the backing of any state or private media outlets. Instead we are entirely reliant on the generosity of our party members and supporters who give what they can, when they can.
Copies of the calendar are available from Siopa Éirígí here.
Political activist and radical photographer Séamus O’Riain,1937-2014
by Mick Healy
“There are those of us who try to follow the path once taken by Casement, Pearse, Connie Green and O’Hanlon. We seek to put through the charter that was bought with blood of our glorious dead in 1916, which the Free State Regime failed to do, a charter that would make an All-Ireland Workers Republic.” – Séamus O’Riain, HM Prison Brixton, September 1967.
Séamus (Ryan) O’Riain was born into poverty on September 2, 1937 to Katherine Ryan in Dublin. When Katherine married a Tom Ryan, Séamus was fostered out to a family called Corbally; unfortunately he was to end up in Drainages children’s detention centre in County Offaly. What’s more, he remained there for about three years before he was reunited with Katherine and step-father Tom at 51 Viking Road, Arbour Hill, Dublin. (Drainages treated the children more like slaves than children, stated a commission in 2009 that inquired into child abuse at the detention centre.)
O’Riain became an accomplished photographer; his employment for a number of years was with Jerome Photography Studio at 4 Henry Street, Dublin. He created hundreds of remarkable images which are a vital history of Republican and left-wing activity. Moreover, the photographs with his Phoenix Company in London featured Brendan Behan, The Dubliners and Tom Barry, the former Commander of the IRA’s Third West Cork Flying Column during the Irish War of Independence. Tom Barry praised him in a letter dated 24, August 1977, “A hundred note of thanks for your splendid set of photos. They are the finest I have ever seen and I have, unfortunately, had hundreds taken.”
Seamus’ association with radicalism went back to his youth when he joined the IRA along with his comrade Liam Sutcliffe, during Operation Harvest (the IRA 1950s border campaign). Like others of his generation, O’Riain Read the rest of this entry
Socialist Democracy statement on the hunger strike and state suppression in Ireland and their assessment of the ‘modest victory’
Below are two pieces by the Irish Marxist group Socialist Democracy. The first is their statement of September 25 (“Harsh treatment of Palestinian prisoner and hunger strike blows the lid off state suppression in Ireland”) and the second is their follow-up piece on the outcome of the hunger strike and support protests around it.
What had been counted as a major intelligence blow against Irish republicanism has suddenly become a major embarrassment to the British and Irish governments and to a number of parties inside the Northern Executive.
In a major sting and entrapment operation nine Republicans were arrested following meetings that appear to have been organised by a long standing MI5 mole within their ranks. All have been jailed on a variety of charges relating to conspiracy.
Subsequently Palestinian solidarity activist Dr Issam Hijjawi was arrested and charged with support for terrorism based on a claim that he offered to put the groups in touch with governments that the British say are “unfriendly”.
All the defendants are housed at Maghaberry gaol, the site of a savage struggle between Republicans and the administration in which the jailers have been using Covid-19 restrictions to hold prisoners in solitary confinement for two weeks on entry to the jail before releasing them to the Republican wing.
After this process was over Dr Hijjawi, who has a number of serious medical conditions, was taken to hospital for tests and on return was again placed in solitary. He immediately went on hunger strike and was followed by Republican prisoners in both northern and southern prisons. These have been supported by solidarity hunger strikes, in Ireland and internationally, and by many statements of support from republican and anti-imperialist groups.
The Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association has announced a fast and solidarity encampment outside Maghaberry jail beginning on the 26th September.
The hunger strike lifts a veil on a massive surveillance operation aimed at Republicans and a constant suppression of those imprisoned. Major sacrifices, such as hunger strikes, are required to avoid being utterly crushed.
The British and Irish governments and Sinn Fein are united in denying that there is any Republican opposition. Anyone who contradicts that narrative is by definition a terrorist. There must be no alternative to the corrupt sectarian settlement they have contrived.
The hunger strike and the fact that a Palestinian activist is involved can lift the lid on this silent suppression. Solidarity should not end with the usual suspects. A slew of organisations; Trade Unions, NGOs and community groups say they defend prisoners and they defend Palestinian rights. They must not be allowed to stay in the shadows.
Socialist Democracy’s statement is taken from their site, here.