Category Archives: Republicanism pre-1900

“(T)he clearest exposition of the doctrine of revolution, social and political”: Connolly on Fintan Lalor

James Fintan Lalor, 1807-1849

The piece below is taken from chapter 14 (“Socialist Teaching of the Young Irelanders: Thinkers and Workers”) of James Connolly’s Labour in Irish History (1910).  I’ve broken up very big paragraphs.

. . . But the palm of honour for the clearest exposition of the doctrine of revolution, social and political, must be given to James Fintan Lalor, of Tenakill, Queen’s County. Lalor, unfortunately, suffered from a slight physical disability, which incapacitated him from attaining to any leadership other than intellectual, a fact that, in such a time and amidst such a people, was fatal to his immediate influence. Yet in his writings, as we study them to-day, we find principles of action and of society which have within them not only the best plan of campaign suited for the needs of a country seeking its freedom through insurrection against a dominant nation, but also held the seeds of the more perfect social peace of the future.

All his writings at this period are so illuminating that we find it difficult to select from the mass any particular passages which more deserve reproduction than others. But as an indication of the line of argument pursued by this peerless thinker, and as a welcome contrast to the paralysing respect, nay, reverence, for landlordism evidenced by Smith O’Brien and his worshippers, perhaps the following passages will serve. In Read the rest of this entry

Marx, Engels on the Fenians and the British working class: some letters

Based on their direct experience of political work in Britain, in particular within the wokring class movement, Marx and Engels came to the conclusion that the British working class could never develop independent class politics in their own interests unles sand until they learned to support the freedom struggle in Ireland.

While the two great revolutionaries disagreed strongly with some of the tactics of the Fenians (or the tactics of some of the Fenians), they did all they could to support Fenian prisoners in England and to rally workers, especially in England, around the cause of the Fenians.

Below are some letters by both Marx and Engels from early November 1867:

Marx to Engels, November 2, 1867
The proceedings against the Fenians in Manchester were every inch what could be expected. You will have seen what a row ‘our people’ kicked up in the Reform League. I have sought in every way to provoke Read the rest of this entry

Jenny Marx (1870) on landlords, repression and ‘agrarian outrages’ in Ireland

Jenny Marx with her mother Jenny von Westphalen

The following is an extract from one of the articles that Jenny Marx wrote about Ireland in February, March and April 1870.  She was one of the daughters of Karl Marx, the one who had the most to do with ‘the Irish Question’, for instance campaigning in support of the Fenian prisoners.  The full texts of the eight articles appear in Ireland and the Irish Question: a collection of writings by Karl Marx & Frederick Engels (New York, International Publishers, 1972), pp379-403.

In Ireland the plundering and even extermination of the tenant farmer and his family by the landlord is called the property right, whereas the desperate farmer’s revolt against his ruthless executioner is called an agrarian outrage. These agrarian outrages, which are actually very few in number but are multiplied and exaggerated out of all proportion by the kaleidoscope of the English press in accordance with orders received, have, as you will know, provided the excuse for reviving the regime of white terror in Ireland. On the other hand, this regime of terror makes it possible for the landowners to redouble their oppression with impunity.

I have already mentioned that the Land Bill consolidates landlordism under the pretext of giving aid to the tenant farmers. Nevertheless, in order to pull the wool over people’s eyes and clear his conscience, Gladstone was compelled to grant this new lease of life to landlord despotism subject to certain legal formalities. It should suffice to say that in the future as in the past the landlord’s word will become law if he succeeds in imposing on his tenants at will the most fantastic rents which are impossible to pay or, in the case of land tenure agreements, make his farmers sign contracts which will bind them to Read the rest of this entry

Marx, Engels and the Irish and British revolutions: a note

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ireland’s greatest Marxist, James Connolly.

Accordingly, I will be running material by Marx (and Engels) on the subject of Irish freedom and its interconnectedness with the British revolution, as well as material by and about James Connolly.

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Connolly’s great co-workers, Constance Markievicz.

This blog already contains a substantial body of her writings and also articles about her.  Most recently, I added her 1923 pamphlet What Irish Republicans Stand For.

Later this year, I will be putting up a substantial piece on her and the Irish revolution, something I began to write well over 20 years ago and put aside unfinished.

I will also continue my (so far rather haphazard) efforts to get up everything I have of Fintan Lalor’s writings and write something substantial on ‘Fintan Lalor and the Irish revolution’.  I had made a load of notes for this last year and then lost them, so I have to start again; very frustrating.

I want to get something substantial up soon on Sean McLoughlin too, a kind of precis of the book by Charlie McGuire, a book I urge folks to go out and buy.

As always, I have a bunch of books – and it’s growing, also as always! – which I want to review.  They go back to stuff published about five years ago now, I have been so lax in getting these reviews done.  Aaaarrrggghhh!

And there are a few old articles from several journals that I want to get up here, but I have to type them up – a very time-consuming task.

Constance de Markievicz: What Irish Republicans Stand For (1923)

In Citizen Army uniform with her beloved revolver

Today, February 4 (2018) marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Constance Gore-Booth/Constance de Markievicz.  To commemorate the anniversary, I’m putting up the text of her 1923 pamphlet What Irish Republicans Stand For.

I have had a copy of this pamphlet since the late 1980s – ie for about 30 years! – dating back to when I first began collecting her writings, many of which appear on this blog.  I drew on her writings for my MA thesis which was written in 1995 and the first few months of 1996 – the thesis chapters also appear on this blog.

Ever since I started this blog in 2011, I have meant to stick it up here, but wanted to coincide it going up with some anniversary relating to her.  I had intended, finally, to put it up on July 15, last year, the 90th anniversary of her death, but got caught up in other things and the day came and went.

Addressking mass rally in Boston, during speaking tour in the United States

However, the 150th anniversary of her birth seems an even better time.  So, finally here it is.  Nick Scullin typed up half of it from a photocopy of the original pamphlet; I typed up the other half.

At first, I thought it was published in 1924 but it appears that it is 1923.  I don’t have access to libraries with copies of daily papers from that time so haven’t been able to double-check – Markievicz, for instance, cites several newspaper articles, giving the day of the month, so these could be looked up to verify 1923 is the year and not 1924.

The original includes the words, “Reprinted from Forward by courtesy of the Editor”.  This was a left-wing Scottish newspaper, based in Glasgow.  Revolutionary socialists such as James Connolly and John Maclean, plus others associated with ‘Red Clydeside’  wrote for it, as did a range of reformist socialists.  After WW1, the paper was particularly associated with the ILP (left social-democrats).  Although Forward had its own printing and publishing company, What Irish Republicans Stand For was printed by Civic Press Ltd of Howard Street in Glasgow.

We typed it up in line with the original pamphlet – ie where it used italics, bold, capitals etc, we left them in place and where headings were centred in the original, we left them centred.  I have, however, put in gaps between paragraphs where the original simply indented a few spaces to indicate new paragraphs.

I’ve not corrected mistakes – eg Eamonn de Valera did not draw up the Democratic Programme (he, like Markievicz, was in prison in England at the time).  Also, some of the language now seems quaint.  Co-operative Commonwealth, for instance, was often used as a synonym for socialism.  There was also the view that pre-Conquest Gaelic society was a pre-class society, so references to “Gaelic ideas” often referred to this; regardless of the exact nature of Gaelic society, certainly both feudalism and capitalism were imposed on Ireland from across the water.

It is also important to keep in mind the time in which this was written.  A counter-revolution was taking place, reactionary elements within the independence movement were gaining control and imprisoning and murdering their former comrades, including people Markievicz had worked with.  Although Markievicz staunchly opposed the Free State, the counter-revolution took a heavy toll on her and she died just four years after the end of the civil war.

The cover has a box with the following in it, just below the title and by-line.  NB: the misspelling of Wolfe, Mitchel and Lalor are as on the cover.

COVER PAGE

“The conquest of Ireland has meant the social and political servitude of the Irish masses, and therefore the reconquest of Ireland must mean the social as well as the political independence from servitude of every man, woman and child.”
-JAMES CONNOLLY

I offer this little leaflet humbly to the memory of Wolf Tone, of Mitchell, of Lawler, and of James Connolly to whom I am indebted for the faith and the knowledge that inspired it.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

WHAT IRISH REPUBLICANS STAND FOR

by Constance de Markievicz

Free State as Tool of British Capitalism

In these articles I am going to discuss Ireland and the “Irish Free State” from an economic point of view, and endeavour to show that this “Free State” is but a further attempt to force the English social and economic systems on a people who cling instinctively and with a passionate loyalty to the ideals of a better civilisation, the tradition of which is part of their subconscious spiritual and mental selves.

It was devised by the British Cabinet of imperialists and capitalists and accepted by their would-be counterparts in Ireland, whom they supply with money, arms, and men for the purpose of breaking up the growing movement towards the development of the Co-operative Commonwealth in Ireland. I claim that for this reason the Free State can never be acceptable to the people of Ireland, and, moreover, that this is the key that opens the door to a thorough understanding of the Irish question, and that there is no other key.

For 800 years Ireland has been devastated again and again by English armies and tricked by English politicians for but one object – the destruction of the Gaelic State to its last traditions and relics, and the establishment, in its place, of the feudal-capitalist state.

The military and political conquests were but means to this end, whole clans were massacred, dispersed or starved to death, whole provinces laid waste again and again for this one purpose – the forcing of an alien and repugnant civilisation on a civilised people.

It is only in latter years that the history of Ireland has been approached in a scientific manner, and that this has been made clear.  Mrs Alice Stopford Green is the great pioneer in this work.  For many years she has been digging laboriously into the past and bringing to light all that she has gleaned from the old documents that survive the systematic destruction of the records of Ireland’s greatness by the English.

James Connolly went further. A student of labour, viewed as a world question, from both scientific and historical sources, a man of practical experience as an organiser, agitator, and speaker in two continents, he mated his knowledge and experience with the facts disclosed by Mrs Green, George O’Brien and others, and has left us in his books a wonderfully comprehensive sketch of Ireland’s real struggle. Her past sufferings, her present slow awakening and struggle and her future hopes and aspirations.

I would appeal to my readers in his words: “The sympathetic student of history, who believes in the possibility of a people by political intuition anticipating the lessons afterwards revealed in the sad school of experience, will not be indisposed to join with the ardent Irish patriot in his lavish expression of admiration of his Celtic forefathers, who foreshadowed in the democratic organisation of the Irish clan the more perfect organisation of the free society of the future.”

Padraig Pearse also dwelt much on the Gaelic State. He emphasises his vision of an Ireland “not free merely, but Gaelic as well.”

THE REPUBLIC.

The reason why the Republican movement was accepted by the people, and a Republic was brought into being by them at the price of such terrible sacrifice and suffering was that the ideals embodied in that Republic touched into life all that was most vital and most Read the rest of this entry

Where, oh where, is our James Connolly?

by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh

“There is always some excuse ready for evasion. The difficulty is, that every party likes some part of the truth; no party likes it all; but we must have it all, every line of it. We want no popular editions and no philosophic selections—the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” —Terence MacSwiney, Principles of Freedom

SIPTU’s Head of Research publicly announced in 2001 that the union would be sponsoring “the publication in several volumes of all Connolly’s articles and letters”, which would “at last enable us to appreciate Connolly’s own originality and greatness to the full”.1 I happened to be sitting next to him on the platform, and in my own contribution I welcomed the announcement but hoped people wouldn’t take it as a signal to sit back and think all was now well in the world of publishing Connolly. I was aiming for that curious amalgam that goes under the name of ‘cautious optimism’, and probably came off as a moany old begrudger. In fact, I was guilty of being far too generous altogether.

Recovering Connolly

My presence on that platform was a result of the momentum that had been building up for five years previously. On the unveiling of a statue of Connolly in Dublin in 1996, I was allowed to point out in the programme that hundreds of his articles had never been made available since their original publication, and to republish the first Connolly work for twenty years.2 The year after, The Lost Writings was published, in which I assembled 65 articles of his unpublished since his execution. It never ceased to amaze me how many people were under the sincere impression up until then that all of Connolly’s work was available. The Collected Works title put on a reprint of previous Connolly selections in 1987-8 had been taken all too literally by many. Also in 1997 Red Banner began its ‘Hidden Connolly’ series, underlining that The Lost Writings wasn’t even the half of it.

A group including some prominent labour historians then tried to get an initiative off the ground which would assemble a team of researchers to publish all of Connolly’s works, an initiative which had the blessing of the Labour Party leader (dubious as that may be). But the SIPTU announcement cut the feet from under that. While ‘The Hidden Connolly’ continued to mine a seemingly inexhaustible seam, any impetus towards publishing Connolly’s complete writings was sucked into the Liberty Hall plughole.

The first fruit of SIPTU’s project appeared in 2005 in the shape of a Connolly biography by Dónal Nevin. It was a disappointing work, but promised Read the rest of this entry

United Wolfe Tone Commemoration: Time for hope – time for radical change.

pics and words by Mick Healy

The Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum held their first commemoration at the grave of Theobald Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare, on Sunday, 20 August 2017.  The gathering attracted a large crowd of socialist-republicans, communists, trade unionists, and women’s and community groups who marched from the village of Sallins to Bodenstown graveyard. The march was led by a colour party from the 1916 Societies, followed by a large banner declaring “Break the Connection with Imperialism” carried by members of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum.

Colourful banners and flags from socialist-republican group Eirigi and the Communist Party of Ireland, along with rousing tunes from a republican flute band, lifted the spirits as the marchers made their way, in very wet conditions, to the monument in Bodenstown Churchyard.

The main oration was delivered by John Douglas of Mandate trade union.

Wreaths were laid by Eirigi, the International Brigades society, trade unionist Mick O’Reilly on behalf of Dublin Trades Council, the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, Mandate trade union, the Communist Party of Ireland, 1916 Societies and many other organisations. The Internationale were sung and the clenched fist salute was given.

20 August, 2017, could be a historic date bringing together socialist-republicans, communists and trade unionists for the first time at Bodenstown in decades. The large contingent of young people evident at this event shows the continuing growth of left-wing republicanism that hopefully can be harnessed in the future for anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist projects.

 

Lindie Naughton’s biography of Markievicz

I must admit that when I saw journalist Lindie Naughton had a book coming out on Markievicz my initial response was one of trepidation.  Even if it was a good book, what was there left to put into a Markievicz bio that hadn’t already been covered by Anne Marreco, Jacqueline Van Voris, Diana Norman and Anne Haverty?

To my delight – especially since I bought the book after a few internet chats with Lindie  – I can report that Lindie’s biography does bring more stuff to the table and is a really good read.  In fact, I found reading the lead-up to the Rising had me quite excited, indeed riveted.

Lindie has made a good deal of use of the Bureau of Military History archives, most particularly the witness statements from the revolutionary period.

She seems to have been through papers of the time pretty methodically, looking for more stuff by and about Markievicz, as well as using the body of Markievicz’s articles that I dug up in the 1980s and put up on this site when I started it.

One result is that, even though I think a know a lot about Markievicz, I have found out more by reading this book.  I think it’s also interesting that Lindie has brought a journalist’s research skills to the work – these are far superior to those of a so-called professional historian like Anne Matthews.  And, speaking of Matthews, Lindie puts another nail in the coffin of Matthews’ attempt to frame up Markievicz for shooting an unarmed Dublin cop at point-blank range and then gloating over it (Anne Haverty also demolishes this frame-up).  I did, however, think Lindie could have said a bit more about the problematic nature of the Geraldene Fitzgerald claim to have witnessed Markievicz killing the Dublin policeman and exulting over it, especially as she had mentioned to me some problems with the Fitzgerald statement.  While Anne Haverty utterly demolishes Matthews’ attempt to stitch up Markievicz on that one, Lindie does, however, show it to be highly unlikely that Markievicz did any such thing.  Also, Lindie notes that Connolly had specifically ordered ICA members not to shoot unarmed cops and soldiers.

Below is a page from Lindie’s bio.  It will give you a taste for the book and, I hope, encourage you to go out and buy it.  It deserves to sell well and be well-read.  The extract deals with some stuff at Liberty Hall a few weeks before the Rising:

By the time the police returned, Connolly, Constance and Helena Molony, all armed, were Read the rest of this entry

Fenian Declaration of an Irish Republic, 1867

Taken from An Sionnach Fionn; GRMA, mo chara.  It’s the 1867 Fenian declaration of an Irish Republic.

The Irish People to the World

We have suffered centuries of outrage, enforced poverty, and bitter misery. Our rights and liberties have been trampled on by an alien aristocracy, who treating us as foes, usurped our lands, and drew away from our unfortunate country all material riches. The real owners of the soil were removed to make room for cattle, and driven across the ocean to seek the means of living, and the political rights denied to them at home, while our men of thought and action were condemned to loss of life and liberty. But we never lost the memory and hope of a national existence. We appealed in vain to the reason and sense of justice of the dominant powers. Our mildest remonstrance’s were met with sneers and contempt. Our appeals to arms were always unsuccessful.

Today, having no honourable alternative left, we again appeal to force as our last resource. We accept the conditions of appeal, manfully deeming it better to die in the struggle for freedom than to continue an existence of utter serfdom.

All men are born with equal rights, and in associating to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it.

We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchical Government, we aim at founding a Read the rest of this entry

On the Saor Eire Action Group, 1967-1975

Below is the talk given by Séan Ó Duibhir at the social/political history conference From Civil Rights to the Bailout organised in June 2015 by the Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour & Class.