Category Archives: Internationalism
Sylvia Pankhurst was a leader of the struggle for women’s right to vote in Britain. Primarily involved in organising working class women in the East End of London, she was increasingly attracted to Marxism. Her support for workers’ struggles led to her being expelled from the bourgeois-feminist Women’s Social and Political Union, led by her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel. While the feminist family members turned into warmongers in the First World War, Sylvia organised against the war on a working class and anti-imperialist basis. She was one of the small handful of major figures on the British left who supported the national liberation struggle in Ireland, including the 1916 Rising. This article was originally published in the Women’s Dreadnought of May 13, 1916, the day after the last of the executions of leaders of the Rising. The paper soon after changed its name to Workers Dreadnought. The text below is taken from the Marxist Internet Archive.
by Sylvia Pankhurst
Justice can make but one reply to the Irish rebellion, and that is to demand that Ireland shall be allowed to, govern herself.
Differences of opinion in England, Scotland, or Wales as to what measure of self-government Ireland is to have ought not to affect the matter – by the “freedom of small nations” which the British Government has so bombastically sworn to defend, this is essentially a question for Ireland herself to decide. Let a popular vote be taken in Ireland as to whether, she shall be an independent, self-governing republic, or an autonomous part of the British Empire, like Australia and New Zealand. That is the only method by which the Irish difficulty can be solved and Ireland learn content.
The “firm and vigorous administration” which The Times demands for Ireland, which we suspect is but another term for coercion, and such suggestions as that of the professing Liberal, Professor Longford, that conscription shall be applied to Ireland, and that the Irish Rebels shall be set free on condition that they join the Army, will only lead to Read the rest of this entry
“If members of a conquering nation called upon the nation they had conquered and continued to hold down to forget their specific nationality and position, to ‘sink national differences’ and so forth, that was not Internationalism, it was nothing else but preaching to them submission to the yoke and attempting to justify and to perpetuate the dominion of the conqueror under the cloak of Internationalism. It was sanctioning the belief, only too common among the English working men, that they were superior beings compared to the Irish, and as much an aristocracy as the mean whites of the Slave states considered themselves to be with regard to the Negroes.
“In a case like that of the Irish, true internationalism must necessarily be based on a distinctly national organisation. . . (Irish sections of the First International) “not only were justified, but even under the necessity to state in the preamble to their rules that their first and most pressing duty, as Irishmen, was to establish their own national independence.”
Born in 1868 in Edinburgh of poor Irish parents, James Connolly is one of Ireland’s most important and controversial historical figures. He is known as Ireland’s foremost marxist thinker and activist, the working class leader who effected a union of socialist and nationalist forces in a radical anti-imperialist front. In 1896 he founded in Dublin the Irish Socialist Republican Party “to muster all the forces of labour for a revolutionary reconstruction of society and the incidental destruction of the British Empire” (Connolly 1973, 167), and remained committed to that aim until his death. Financial difficulties forced him to emigrate to the United States between 1903 and 1910 where he worked as an organiser for the Industrial Workers of the World (better known as the Wobblies). After his return to Ireland, he became the Belfast organiser of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union from 1911 to 1913, was then deeply involved in the great Dublin lock-out of 1913-14 and had a key role in organising the Irish Citizen Army – a workers’ defence force.
Connolly was an outspoken opponent of Irish involvement in the First World War. A convinced socialist revolutionary, he was at the forefront of the struggle against the British Empire and allied with the revolutionary Irish nationalists to organise the 1916 Easter Rising. One of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic, he was appointed vice-president of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic and commandant-general of its army. Wounded in the Rising, he was shot in a chair by the British authorities on 12 May 1916. Throughout his life, Connolly was a prolific writer, and maintained a constant stream of books, pamphlets articles and speeches. His work is almost exclusively centred on Ireland and was elaborated largely in isolation from the international socialist movement and for that reason is not well known globally.
Connolly developed a number of innovative theoretical positions regarding the relationship between marxism and anti-imperialism; Read the rest of this entry