Category Archives: Republicanism post-1900

Remembering Maire Comerford

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Republican Congress doco – in review

Nora Connolly - she was right! She should be given her due.

Nora Connolly – she was right! She should be given her due.

by Shan Van Vocht

A few nights ago I finally got around to watching the Republican Congress DVD. The revival of left-republicanism in the wake of the Provisional leaderships’ sell-out is a very welcome development.  Among other things it has sparked renewed interest in important left initiatives in the 15 years following the Treaty between the British ruling class and the southern Irish bourgeoisie.  So this document is a very worthy project.  At the same time I think it has some important weaknesses.

Let’s not beat around the bush.

What is the utterly despicable Ann Matthews doing in it?  Her life these days is devoted to attacking republican women of the early 1900s, especially Markievicz.  She says things about these women that are blatantly untrue (like we only have Markievicz’s word for it that she was second-in-command at Stephen’s Green), she suppresses evidence that doesn’t suit her vilification of Markievicz and others (for instance, she uses Free State unionist judge Willey’s 20-years-after-the-event ‘memory’ of Markievicz breaking down at her court-martial while not telling readers that the official court-martial record shows no such thing), she’s written a viciously anti-Markievicz play and her two books on republican women of the 1900-1940 period are extended diatribes aimed to destroy these women’s reputations.

West Brit audiences and readers no doubt love what she writes.  However, she should be absolutely persona non grata on the left and yet she pops up here and there – in this doco, as speaker at a left meeting in Sligo with Declan Bree in the chair for chrissakes, launching her book on the ICA in the GPO with Eamonn McCann for chrissakes helping her.  And in the Republican Congress DVD she claims the Cumann na mBan women who initially were favourable to Republican Congress backed off as they were “religious conservatives”. Sure, Sheila Humphreys was a right-wing Catholic!!!  She also claims there were no political brains in Cumann na mBan, as if they were all airheads like herself.  Chrissakes, why would the makers of this documentary invite her to spout this ludicrous crap in their documentary?!!!!  (Matthews’ stuff on republican women is so off-the-wall, I started to think a while ago that she might have mental health issues.)

My two other gripes was that they gave a platform to fake-left Read the rest of this entry

Saor Eire’s 1968 raid on the Hibernian Bank in Newbridge, Co. Kildare

by Mick Healy

photo: Mick Healy

After a raid on the National Bank in Kells, Co, Meath in 1969, Saor Eire issued their first official statement to the press claiming responsibility for the robbery and describing themselves as the Saor Eire Action Group. They signed the statement as Michael Price, using the name of the 1930s socialist-republican leader and claiming that the money would be used to finance a movement which would strive for a Workers’ Republic.

The organisation had already become partly known, however, for daring bank raids.  They had commenced expropriations from Irish banks with a raid on the Royal Bank in Drumcondra, on February 27, 1967. This was followed by raiding a Munster and Leinster Bank in Tallaght on April 11, 1968.

On Tuesday, June 20, 1968, three armed raiders wearing false beards including Sean (‘Ructions’) Doyle, a veteran from Operation Harvest (the 1956-1962 IRA Border Campaign), entered the Hibernian Bank in Charlotte Street, Droichead Nua (Newbridge).  Shouting “this is a hold-up”, they held the manager, Michael Waldron, and the bank employees at gun point while searching unsuccessfully for a Free State Army payroll that, according to their intelligence, was destined for the Curragh Army Camp. While one man guarded the door, his two comrades vaulted the counter and empted £3,474 of bank-cash into a large bag.

However, an employee at nearby Sloan’s Drapery shop, Cathal Henry, became suspicious of the strangers who entered the bank and he approached a man outside the bank standing beside the get-away Read the rest of this entry

Tommy McKearney to speak at Dublin March for Connolly

The veteran socialist-republican Tommy McKearney will be one of the speakers at the March For Connolly on May 14th in Dublin City.

The March For Connolly will mark the hundredth anniversary of the execution of James Connolly on May 12th 1916. McKearney, a former H-Block hunger-striker, author, trade unionist and anti-austerity activist, has consistently argued that socialism is the key to achieving Irish national, economic and social freedom.

The March For Connolly represents a once in a century opportunity for citizens to send a message to the political establishment – Connolly may be dead, but his politics are alive and well in the Ireland of 2016.

Join the March For Connolly, assembling at 2pm on May 14th at the Wolfe Tone Monument on Stephen’s Green for Parade to the GPO. Other speakers will be confirmed in the coming days.

Who drove the Rising?

imagesI’m well-disposed towards the 1916 Societies, so this short piece should be taken as a disagreement in a comradely spirit.

A recent article on their site says, “The driving force behind the Rising was the IRB; it was in effect a Fenian Rising.”  (See here.)

I think this is not only wrong historically but it has some important political implications for today too.

The IRB was not the driving force behind the Rising and nor could it be.  Connolly, Mallin, Markievicz and the Irish Citizen Army made up the driving force.  From the time the First World War broke out, Connolly determined on a Rising and began preparations.  The IRB position was rather more confused.  The left of the IRB – Clarke, Pearse, Mac Diarmada etc – also wanted a rising, but the situation in the IRB was far more complicated as the organisation contained far more equivocal figures, like Bulmer Hobson, and wavered continually.

The classic example is that the IRB capitulated to Redmond’s demand for a bunch of his sycophants – 25 of them I think! – to be added to the leading body of the Irish Volunteers.  If you are the driving force for an imminent rebellion you don’t agree to have a large number of opponents of such a rebellion being added to the leadership of what is ostensibly to be the main force of the rebellion.

And, utterly predictably, when war came, the Redmondite element of the Irish Volunteer leadership supported British imperialism and they and Redmond took the vast majority of the members of the Volunteers out of the movement and into the British Army and onto the imperialist killing fields in France.  The IRB leaders who were responsible for the capitulation of Redmond had not only made a serious political error, they had in effect sabotaged the Volunteers.

While the IRB floundered about, with its left elements wanting an insurrection but not really understanding how to proceed, Connolly was pursuing a consistent Read the rest of this entry

Save Moore Street, concert, this Sunday, January 17

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Richard Behal interview, pt 3

I was sent the following by my friend Mick Healy.  Mick sometimes writes pieces for this blog, but is also the main person behind the Irish Republican and Marxist History Project site.

 

Connolly, the Dublin Steampacket Company dispute and the 1916 Rising

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“The cause of Labour is the cause of Ireland; the cause of Ireland is the cause of Labour. They cannot be dissevered” – James Connolly

The article below is an extended version of a paper given to the Dublin Dockworkers’ Preservation Society on 23 May 2015.  Thanks to the author for sending this fascinating article to the blog.

by D.R. O’Connor Lysaght

All too often, James Connolly’s last months tend to be seen as a period in which he compartmentalised his tasks, dividing his time between preparing a military uprising and, to a lesser extent, performing basic trade union work. An extreme variation of this is that he followed the majority of his socialist contemporaries in abandoning the class struggle at least until the end of the World War, if not altogether, and that, in any case, he never organised an actual, or, anyway a major strike.

None of these assumptions is true. The full facts of his wartime career show him to have been acting as a socialist, even if, as he admitted, other socialists would not understand.

Guiding strategy

His guiding strategy was summarised in the last paragraph of the Resolution on War, passed in 1907 by the Socialist International’s Congress at Stuttgart:
“In case war should break out… it is the duty of the working classes and their parliamentary representatives to intervene in favour of its speedy termination and with all their powers to utilise the economic and political crisis created by the war to rouse the masses and thereby to hasten the downfall of capitalist class rule.”

This has been ignored all too often by those trying to explain Connolly’s first World War strategy. This ignorance is helped by the fact that Read the rest of this entry

Short report on Frank Conroy commemorative meeting

by Mick Healy

On Saturday 12th December 2015, a very interesting Frank Conroy Commemoration took place in The Liffey Studio, Newbridge. The commemoration featured a screening of the new documentary The Republican Congress, presented by Donal Fallon and directed by Donal Higgins. The film tells the story of  the political organisation that was founded in 1934 by Left-wing republicans Nora Connolly O’Brien, Roddy Connolly, Frank Ryan, George Gilmore and Peadar O’Donnell.

Donal Higgins said, “I was attracted to the story of the Republican Congress as it seems to me to be a fairly overlooked part of our history. In fairness, the Congress only lasted two years, so it’s not surprising that they’ve been overlooked. But these were the people who went to Spain to defend Republican values at a time when the whole country was supporting Franco. I also think that the Congress has some resonances for society today.”

Paul McCormack sang:

Men and women heard the call
and went to fight for good and all
and in the ranks there standing tall
a young man named Frank Conroy

Conroy, who had been an IRA and Republican Congress activist, died in 1936 fighting with the International Brigade in Spain.

 

Red nationalism of the blood or cultural gesture?

by Liam Ó Ruairc 

The issue of support for Germany indicates some of the divergences between Connolly and Lenin. A major study written by a follower of Greaves was forced to conclude that Connolly “underestimated considerably the role of German imperialism. While understanding the roots of the war to be economic… he nevertheless overlooked the aggressive nature of German imperialism…Undoubtedly much of what Connolly wrote during this period was directly propagandistic…but his arguments concerning the imperialistic nature of the war lack the perspicacity and directness which are evident in Lenin’s articles of the same period” (Metscher, 1986).

Support for Germany aside, another problem indicating a divergence with Lenin is that a careful reading of Connolly’s articles in the Workers’ Republic newspaper reveals quite clearly the extent to which he had been influenced by what could be called a ‘red nationalism of the blood’. Shortly before the Rising, in an article entitled ‘The ties that bind’, Connolly wrote in the 5 February 1916 edition of the Workers’ Republic:

“Deep in the heart of Ireland has sunk the sense of the degradation wrought upon its people – our lost brothers and sisters – so deep and humiliating that no agency less potent than the red tide of war on Irish soil will ever be able to enable the Irish race to recover its self-respect or re-establish its national dignity in the face of a world horrified and scandalised by what must seem to them our national apostacy. Without the slightest trace of irreverence but in all due humility, and awe we recognise that of us, as of mankind before Calvary, it may truly be said: ‘Without the shedding of Blood, there is no Redemption'” (Yeates, 2015, 319).

Earlier, in the Workers’ Republic of 7 August 1915, Connolly had written an extraordinary article entitled Read the rest of this entry

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