1916, 2016: them and us
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This first went up on the site back on April 28 this year; I’m putting it back up on the home page because it remains relevant. I’ll be highlighting it continuously as long as I need to!
One of the products of the end of the Provisionals’ armed struggle in the six counties and their signing up to, and enthusiastic participation in, an internal settlement there is that the kind of historical revisionism that was officially-backed from about the mid-1970s until the end of the 1990s has become outmoded. The kind of nonsense delivered up by the likes of a would-be Sebastian Flyte such as Roy Foster is now surplus to requirements.
Instead, there is a new war over ‘1916 and all that’. The southern establishment is much more relaxed about recognising and celebrating the importance of 1916 than they have been at any time since the explosion in the six counties at the end of the 1960s and start of the 1970s. On the other hand, the establishment is vitally keen on tying the 1916 rebellion and subsequent war for independence into its own history. They want to present the events of 1916-21 as finding their natural and logical conclusion in the establishment and development of the 26-county state.
Moreover, they want to show that this state and its population, or certainly its ruling elite, have ‘matured’ to the level of putting the old ‘enmity’ with England behind them. ‘We’ can now recognise the ‘sacrifices’ made by Orangemen in the First World War and also commemorate men from nationalist Ireland who joined the British imperialist army and died on the slaughter fields of that war. It’s all just part of Ireland’s rich and diverse ‘cultural’ tapestry. Indeed, ‘we’ can be so ‘mature’ that our leaders can feast with the British monarchy.
As the Easter statement of the Republican Network for Unity put it of the recent visits of three Irish leaders to the top table in Britain:
“Not a fortnight ago we were treated to the nauseating spectacle of Irish citizens succumbing to the lure of British state banqueting, a long accepted Imperial method of killing off whatever self-respect was left within former opponents of England’s position.
“Not sufficiently bedazzled by the fruits of coalition with Fine Gael, and in these times of abject poverty and renewed emigration at home, former Workers Party & Republican Clubs member Eamon Gilmore allowed himself to be paraded through the streets of London in a horse drawn carriage, flanked by the Royal Cavalry and accompanied by none other than Prince Charles, commander in chief of the Parachute regiment.
“President of the pretend Republic, Michael D Higgins (a highly educated man) allowed himself to be used as a quaint ornament, testament to relinquished Irish aspirations of Independence, greeting the British head of state as if in normal times, yet fully aware that her government and forces still illegally stand in the way of his and our birth right, a free living nation with guaranteed sovereignty governed by the Republican principles of equality and social justice.
“Most galling of all, the corrupt commander, Martin McGuinness, for whom so many gave up so much, appeared to the world dressed in the attire of the oppressor to dine with and toast the system which patriots went to their graves to resist, many spurred on by McGuinness’ own words, assurances and commands.”
And so we come to the pretend republic’s invitation to Charles Windsor to attend the 2016 centenary commemoration of the Easter Rising.
A united front of bourgeois Ireland and bourgeois Britain.
Against their united front of oppressors and exploiters, we need our own united front of genuine republicans (of whatever shade) and democrats.
I’ve argued this before, on a number of occasions, and I’ll be continuing to argue it, even harp on it, for at least the next 18 months. We need a combined 2016 Easter Rising commemoration to counterpose to that of the pretend republic and the pretend republicans. The differences between the socialist-republican groups – éirígí, the IRSP, RNU and 32CSM – are far, far smaller than the differences between those who took part in the Rising (ICA and Irish Volunteers) and much smaller again than those who formed the ’98 Committee back in 1898 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United Irish rebellion.
We should be able to agree to establish working commemoration committees involving the four groups, and extending an invite to RSF, as well as opening up the committees to independent left-republicans of whom there are a substantial body, starting with Bernadette McAliskey. But also people involved in various 1916 societies, anti-internment groups and so on. If this is going to be done, the work needs to start now. Someone needs to get the ball rolling.
Because we are all socialists, all anti-austerity and anti-GFA, there should be no problem making the focus of the 2016 commemoration/s the relevance of the Rising to Ireland today, especially the relevance of Connolly to today and what a Connolly-type perspective means in Ireland in the early 21st century. It would be great to have a whole week of events – talks, film showings, public meetings and debates and so on covering the various aspects of the Rising and Ireland a century on. Some topics that strike me as relevant: Pearse and the Irish education system; the role of women (women’s liberation, national liberation and socialism); the working class and the national question; a Connolly perspective for today; the road to the Easter Rising; culture and revolution; talks on various leaders and participants; displays of photos and memorabilia; music concerts; art exhibitions.
And a big march and rally in Dublin.
The various socialist-republican groups should be politically mature enough to agree that there is an equal division of speaking time. For instance, the main march/rally in Dublin could have speakers from each of éirígí, IRSP, RNU, 32CSM, plus some high-profile independent left-republican (Bernadette would be an obvious choice; folks like Patricia Campbell or Tommy McKearney would also be an option, especially in terms of their union leadership roles).
I think there is every possibility for 1916 Commemoration Committees to be established in every county in Ireland, organising local events but also building for a big national march/rally in Dublin. Supporters networks overseas can also be mobilised, both to organise events around the globe and also to get people to come to Ireland for the week’s events. (Where we get people from around the world to come, this could be combined with fact-finding trips to find out about repression in the north and the situation in the south.)
Let’s not let them have the initiative on this. Let’s take the initiative for our side. The side of the forces for liberation.
Posted on December 17, 2014, in 21st century republicanism and socialism, éirígí, Bernadette (Devlin) McAliskey, British state repression (general), Commemorations, Economy and workers' resistance, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Independent Workers Union, Internationalism, Irish Citizen Army, Irish politics today, IRSP, James Connolly, Padraic Pearse, Partition, Political education and theory, Prisoners - current, Prisoners - past, Public events - Ireland, Repression and resistance in the six counties today, Repression in 26-county state, Republican Network for Unity, Republicanism post-1900, Revolutionary figures, Secret police, The road to the Easter Rising, Toadyism, Trade unions, Women, Women in republican history, Women's rights. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.