Monthly Archives: September 2011

Looking for written contributions

The blog welcomes contributions from a socialist-republican viewpoint.  I’m interested in both historical material and contemporary pieces.  If you’d like to write something, or if you have something already done, drop me a line with it.  I can be reached at philipferguson8@gmail.com

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Upcoming

I’ve put up most of the historical stuff I possess.  I still have to transcribe an old photocopy I have of Markievicz’s excellent 1923 pamphlet, What Republicans Stand For.  However, although I still have some historical work/projects in mind, the blog will mainly move on to more current stuff now.  In the next week, I hope to do something on the Sinners’ presidential campaign and also something looking at whether Fianna Fail is finished.  Current polls might suggest they are, but I’m sceptical that we’ve reached the point where the corrupt old fake-republican party that dominated 26-county politics from 1932 to 2011, nearly 80 years, is quite finished.  On the other hand, the old bourgeois nationalist IPP, which was dominant for nearly 50 years was obliterated in 1918 and never made a comeback in the southern state.  Are Sinn Fein about to replace Fianna Fail in a similar way?  It seems difficult to imagine; more possible is that Fine Gael, which is an even more shallow bourgeois party than FF, emerge as the new major party of southern politics, and that Sinn Fein and Labour will benefit from a section of previous FF support going their ways.

At the same time, parties as significant as Fianna Fail, with its whole legacy of popular support and business connections, a party very important for the southern ruling class, don’t just fade away – it takes not only a major historical event but a major political transformation in the wider society to destroy such parties.  In that sense, 2011 is certainly not 1918 – there is nothing on a political level in Ireland in 2011 that compares with what was happening in Ireland in the 1916-18 period, when the seeds of destruction of the IPP began taking root (and the 1916-18 period was itself built on the decade leading up to the Rising, when a new generation emerged to revitalise republicanism and organise the labour and women’s movements).

 

Markievicz oration at second anniversary of murder of Fianna members Cole and Colley

ORATION ON THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF MURDER OF FIANNA COLE AND COLLEY

Comrades in the Republican Army and friends, fellow Republicans, we meet here today to do honour to two young lads who gave their lives for Ireland two years ago.

Standing by their graves today, where the green grass and flowers hold up their heads, I thought of that sad day two short years ago when I stood by the side of their two poor mutilated bodies lying in the mortuary of the Mater Hospital, and when we followed them – just a few of us – followed their bodies up to this graveyard and heard the sods falling, one by one, like drops of lead, on the bright hopes, courageous hearts, and noble characters of these two young lads.

Somehow it seemed so tragic as we stood there and the same prayer rose to the lips of all, the prayer to worthily carry on – carry on what these boys had died to accomplish.

At this anniversary we who honour them, who love them, who knew them, renew that prayer to God in our hearts; and we will be given the courage to dare if we must dare, to stand by if we must stand by, and the courage to undergo death and torture even as Cole and Colley underwent it.

May we be worthy to be followers of these noble boys.  May their deaths rally this generation as Emmet’s death rallied the generations that followed him.

Today we look back over the two blackest years Irish history has ever known.  Men of our own Republican Army deserted us, were bought, tricked and cajoled by England, took up the British fight, and carried on the treacherous part at the bidding of England.  It is the noble deaths of lads like these that have cleansed Ireland from this sin and given us hope for the future.  The green grass and flowers that spring from their graves shows us how hope springs even from death, tells us that all duty, love and courage, spring from the graves of dead heroes.

Today, just two years after their deaths, we see a grand rally of young lads in Ireland who are carrying on their work in the Fianna.  The courage of many of them has been tried in jail; many went out in the flying columns taking their lives in their hands.

So today let us carry from these graves a message of hope to Ireland.  We will carry no bitterness for their murderers.  We of the Fianna still stand by the old chivalrous ideals of the Gael.  We will say, as our two martyrs would say, in the words of Christ, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The men who murdered these boys did not know what they did it for.  We pity them, we despise them – we abhor the qualities that made them do such a deed, but we must not on an occasion like this think of them bitterly.

The honouring of the two martyrs that lie here has today marked another turning point, and we of the Fianna stand pledged to go out and work and devote our lives to the full ratification of the Irish Republic.  That pledge we renew here today, and we in the names of the dead heroes and martyrs, pray God to give us strength to act as they did, and if needs be to fight as they did, and to die as they died, in defence of the Republic of Ireland.

Sinn Fein, August 31, 1924

Markievicz on Fianna Eireann and 1921 Treaty

FIANNA EIREANN AND THE 1921 TREATY

Simplicity and directness of vision and love of the true and noble are part of the attributes of youth.  Our Headquarters’ staff instinctively took the straight, hard road, and when the “treaty” was signed, reaffirmed their allegiance to the Republic.  Since then the Fianna Eireann have carried on the fight, and many a noble boy stood true in spite of the soul-stifling misery of prison and the horror of torture.  Some, alas, went wrong and threw in their lot with those who sold their honour to the British Government, and became part of the English king’s garrison in Ireland.  These renegades did England’s dirty work, spying on their comrades who stood true and often sending them to a cruel death.  But this must not discourage us; it must remind us that human nature is weak and foolish, and that there are traitors everywhere, and that even among the Twelve Disciples there was one traitor.

But our faith tells us that human nature is redeemed by the blood of those who die and through our martyrs our cause remains holy and clean.  We remember with reverence the lads who were kidnapped or taken in battle in every part of Ireland to be tortured and murdered because they refused to betray their comrades and their country.  It is well that we bear in mind the message sent out by Liam Mellows, just a short time before he faced a “Free State” firing squad, and take to heart those words written by one of the wisest and greatest of the sons of Ireland, whose death has crowned our motherland with glory.  He says, “The Fianna ideal can save the future.  The reason for so many young soldiers going wrong is that they never had a proper grip of the fundamentals.  They were absorbed into the movement and fight, not educated into it.  Hence no real convictions.”

So I would call on the young officers of the Fianna to rally to LIam Mellows’ last command and start on a great campaign of education.  Teach young Ireland what the English conquest is; that it is more than a military and political one, it has a deeper and much more dangerous significance.  It stands for the conquest of the will and the soul of the Irish people.

An English constitution is forced on us to impose the English social, economic, and educational systems on us.  Therefore to reconquer Ireland for the Irish we must have complete separation from England.  The whole island must always remain one country with all the powers of a sovereign nation.

Teach the boys that it rests with them to see that the rising generation has both the power and the will to build up an Irish civilisation, and to draw up an Irish constitution, with an Irish system of education which will train our youth to be free, spiritually, mentally and bodily.  Let the Fianna learn that Ireland to be really free must be, as Pearse says, “Not free merely, but Gaelic as well.”  Gaelic in soul, spirit, thought, and language.  This only is freedom, and it can never be attained while Ireland is an integral part of the British Empire.  To obtain this freedom they must understand the horrors of the British civilisation and the beauties of the old Irish civilisation which is the foundation on which we must develop our newly-awakened self-conscious Republic, and the Fianna must lead the way.

The above article originally appeared under the title “15th Anniversary of Fianna Eireann”, Sinn Fein, June 21, 1924.

Markievicz Fianna article on citizenship

CITIZENSHIP

Written for Fianna Eireann in her capacity as chief scout

 

“A good citizen is a man or a woman every action of whose life is based on the dictates of a strong Civic Conscience.”

A baby when born into the world is like any other animal, in so much as it is quite helpless and has no sense.  As time passes, it begins to notice and get in touch with other people; first with its mother who cares for it, then with its little brothers and sisters, its father and other members of the household.  As it gets to understand and be understood, it is forced to live in its family as part of the family, suffering when the family suffers, mourning when one of the family dies, going hungry when the breadwinner is idle, and enjoying family life happily when all goes well with the family.

Family Life The Beginning of Citizenship

Some children learn quickly to live the common family life, and to help and do their share in making the family life happy and comfortable.  Other children are selfish, wanting more than their share of everything pleasant and shirking their share of work.  Or perhaps, they are given to telling tales on their brothers and sisters; maybe they are untruthful or dishonest or prepared to push all their brothers and sisters aside and into the gutter as long as they get on.

This family life is the beginning of citizenship.  It is citizenship on a tiny scale, and the good citizen is the man or woman who looks upon himself or herself as part of a big family that he loves and wants to do his duty by.  His big family is the whole nation.

Joining the Fianna

We begin life then as citizens of our family, but the first real step in citizenship that we take is when we join the Fianna.  Read the rest of this entry

Markievicz on the Fianna trials

HOW WE WON THE FIANNA TRIALS

“The most dangerous form of animal is a Fianna boy”.  This quaint remark caught my ear as I entered the ruined courthouse in Wexford.  Surprised, I turned and asked, “Why?”  The answer came in a chorus, “Didn’t you hear they brought them handcuffed together in pairs from Waterford?”  Scarcely credible, but true.

The GHQ of Na Fianna Eireann had decided to fight the two cases that the British Free State police had brought against the “boys of Wexford” and I had come down with Mr Alec Lynn, whom we had chosen to be our champion.

The trial was to be held in a small court in the half-ruined courthouse, and we passed through the roofless hall where the British had formerly sat to jail patriots into the meaner hall where those who were today doing their dirty work were to sit. Read the rest of this entry

Markievicz on Liam Mellows

LIAM MELLOWS – PIONEER

 

Liam Mellows joined the Fianna in its very early days.  Colbert and Heuston belonged to the same group of boys and were his comrades.

Liam always had faith in its ultimate success, and, through all our difficulties, his steadfastness, courage and gaiety influenced all he met, and made us lean on him, and as time went on put more and more confidence in him.

He loved the young people and believed in them.  He believed, too, that the Republic would be finally established and recognised internationally through the self-sacrifice and courage of the youth of Ireland.

One little scene between Liam and myself always rises before my vision when his name is mentioned.  It was one of the unforgetable things that showed the greatness of his growing soul.  I would like all our young patriots to know it, too, and to think of Liam when they are starting out on the road of life, and the crossroads are reached.  One road leads into the darkness.  It is only lit by the starry crowns of martyrs and by the lights of Heaven in the far, far distance.  The other road is bright and gay, and leads to worldly success, to pleasure and money; the darkness at the end is hardly seen.  Liam knew instinctively that the dark road led to a happy death, to comradeship with the noble dead and to immortality, while the bright and sunny path he scorned had brought many a confident and clever lad to die in the end the deah of a Judas or of Carey, or Castlereagh or MacNally.

It was during the very early days of the Fianna, and we of the Executive Council were very depressed.  There were hardly any branches of the Fianna outside Dublin, few workers and little money.  Liam came to me one day and said to me, very quietly and humbly, but with a twinkle in his eye, “I’m thinking of giving up my job, and I’m wondering if you’ll approve.”  He went on to tell me that his job was a poor one, and that he did not care about it, and that he proposed chucking it for something that he would like better, and that though it would not be worth much at the beginning he believed he would be able to work it up all right.

He then made the amazing statement that he contemplated going on the road to organise the Fianna.  Read the rest of this entry

Markievicz on the founding of Fianna Eireann

Constance Markievicz was the main founder and chief scout of Fianna Eireann, the first republican organisation of the 1900s which was trained in arms.  She taught them politics, shooting and wrote their handbook.  Members of the Fianna went on to play an important part in the wider republican struggle, Liam Mellows being the most prominent.  Two executed 1916 leaders, Con Colbert and Sean Heuston, were also products of the Fianna and Markievicz’s training.  The military handbook she wrote also helped serve Oglaigh na hEireann later on.   Below is an article she wrote in 1923 about the founding of the Fianna:

 

THE FIANNA

It was in 1909 that we started out to organise the Fianna.  The inspiration to do so came from reading in the Dublin daily papers of how a number of Boy Scout organisations and Boys Brigades had been reviewed at Clontarf by an English viceroy and addressed by him.  Reading this I realised vividly and suddenly that Ireland was being attacked at her most vital point, the minds of her children.

The early impressions that a young mind receives become part of his subconscious self.  These impressions create the instincts that guide him and make him; the driving forces, that, quite unrealised by him, goad him into action, make him voice opinions.  The grown person is moral or unmoral according to the emotions and principles that moved his youth.  His class prejudices grow out of his childish experiences, his religion is usually much the same as that which he was taught almost before he could speak.  The same love of country and the same respect for laws and rulers inspire him as those which inspired the people amongst whom he grew up and the teachers by whom his impressionable mind was first cultivated.

It is only the rare exceptions among human beings who, when they reach maturity, go through their mental equipment and discharge or change any of the ideas or beliefs that they find themselves voicing.

It was therefore horrible to me to read of regiments of little Irish boys learning to salute and to respect the flag that has been for so long the emblem of foreign rule, misery and oppression in Ireland.

I could vision them listening to the hypocritical kindly speeches from the mouth of the representative of a foreign king, each little man’s eyes growing round with admiration at the sight of so much wealth and pride and military state all displayed for his own benefit and for the benefit of the cringing awestruck little lads marching beside him.  Cringing and obsequious organisers herded them deftly, carried on the work of inspiring admiration for a tyrannical Empire, and forgetfulness of their country’s and class’s needs. Read the rest of this entry

Bleeding the Irish people dry

The following is taken from the September (2011) Socialist Democracy bulletin:

A couple of years ago the Financial Times ran an editorial in which it called on the then Fianna Fail led government to abandon its costly bailout of Irish financial system. The FT leader writers declared it was “time to staunch the bleeding”. In the time that has passed since then and now the costs of the financial crisis have escalated; the Irish state has been shut out of the financial markets had to accept a bailout from the EU-IMF; and there has been further public spending cuts and austerity measures. There has also been a general election in which the government parties were comprehensively defeated. Despite the obvious failure of their strategy for dealing with the financial crisis the Irish ruling class continues to persist with it. There is almost unanimity across the political class as Fine Gael and Labour continue on from where their Fianna Fail predecessors left off.

So what is their strategy? Read the rest of this entry

Conclusion to “The Failure of Irish Republicanism, 1908-1927”

by Philip Ferguson; this is the thesis conclusion

 

Ten years after the Easter Rising, Ireland lay partitioned, impoverished, her people embittered by disappointment, divided and distraught by a half-measure of freedom and exhausted by war.  Had the high hopes inspired by the Rising, all the ardour and sacrifice that during ‘four glorious years’ upheld the Republic, led to no better than this?                                                                            – Dorothy Macardle, republican activist, viewing the Ireland of the late 1920s[1]

In relation to Britain, a recent commentary rightly notes, “Ireland has always been placed differently from other colonies on account of its geographical proximity, its white population and its position as the colony within, incorporated directly into the British state.”[2]

Challenges to the existing order in Ireland, which began with the advent of Irish republicanism in the 1790s, have therefore contained the possibility of destabilising the British state itself.  Moreover, given that British rule shaped the socio-economic form of Irish society, challenges to that rule have tended, usually consciously, to question and even oppose the capitalist system in Ireland.

Marx, for instance, noted the “socialistic tendency” in the Fenianism of the 1860s and 1870s.  In the early 1900s, the left-wing of the IRB “approached the positions of the radical labour movement”.[3]  The radical social views of the IRB left were evident, as we have seen, in the columns of Irish Freedom.  The interconnections of national and social liberation, were summed up by one of the paper’s contributors, “Crimal”:  “Ireland can never be socially free until England’s grip is loosened, but merely to loosen England’s grip is to leave the work unfinished.”[4]  This inter-relationship of national separatism and social transformation at the heart of republicanism was embodied in the term “the Republic”.  It is this definition of republicanism – continuously made explicit in Irish Freedom, the writings of Pearse, republican support for the Dublin workers in 1913, and embodied in the concept of “equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens” (Easter Proclamation) and “that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare” (Democratic Programme) – which has been used throughout this thesis.[5]

At the same time there remained a certain lack of clarity, or lacunae, in republicanism.  The nature of the social transformation envisaged, although clearly radical and structural, was not articulated in precise class terms.  There was a general support among republican leaders and theorists for co-operative control of the means of production, distribution and exchange, but there was not an explicit political programme specifying which class would lead the struggle for “the Republic” and which class interests “the Republic” would represent.  This gap or lack of clarity was a feature of republicanism, the specifically Irish form of anti-imperialist (or revolutionary) nationalism, although it is to be found in anti-imperialist nationalism in many other countries as well.  Republicans wanted to abolish class difference by establishing a new society of equals but they tended also to try to abolish it in the present by not basing their political approach on it and instead appealing to the mass of Irish people on the primary basis of nationality.

This approach did not simply spring from the heads of the republican ideologists such as Pearse, but reflected the underdeveloped nature of the Irish colonial economy and society.  Read the rest of this entry