Category Archives: Republicanism pre-1900

Christy Moore unveils Frank Conroy plaque

 

by Mick Healy

On Saturday 22nd June, Christy Moore unveiled a plaque to socialist republican Frank Conroy, a Kildare man killed in 1936 while fighting with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. The plaque, presented to the Kilcullen Heritage Centre by the Friends International Brigades Ireland, is a twin of a plaque presented to the town council of Lopera in Spain in April 2016.

Over a hundred people packed into the Kilcullen Centre to hear historian James Durney speak on the life of Conroy who was born on 25 February 1914, in Kilcullen.  Christy sang his song “Viva La Quinte Brigada” and was joined on stage by the local Kilcullen Choir to give a most incredible performance of “Ride On” and “Nancy Spain”.

On 16 December 2012, the Frank Conroy Committee held their first commemoration to this young Irish revolutionary who had conveniently been airbrushed from history by the establishment.  Nevertheless, Frank is now as well known in the county as Kildare-born Fenian John Devoy.

Markievicz letters: a new, expanded edition

The first edition of Constance Markievicz’s prison letters was put together by Esther Roper, the partner of Markievicz’s sister Eva Gore-Booth, to whom many of the letters were addressed.  The editon was published by Longman Paul in 1934.  Roper, with help from Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington, one of the executors of Markievicz’s will and  longtime friend and fellow activist, wrote a substantial biographical essay for the book.

Over 50 years later Amanda Sebestyen worked on a new edition and wrote her own introduction.  This edition was brought out by the feminist publisher, Virago, in 1987.

Thirty-one years later (last year, 2018) Lindie Naughton, the author of a new recent biography – Markievicz: a most outrageous rebel (Dublin, Merrion Press, 2016) – has put together a new edition.  This edition returns the letters to their original form.  (Lindie notes, “Consulting the originals in the National Library of Ireland makes it obvious that the published versions of the prison letters skirted around some sensitive issues and blanked out the names of people who quite possibly were still alive at the time of the original publication.”)

The prison letters come from her various stints in jail: May 1916-July 1917 in Mountjoy (Dublin) and Aylesbury (Buckinghamshire); June 1918-March 1919 in Holloway; June-October 1919 in Cork; September 1920-July 1921 in Mountjoy; and November-December 1923 in the North Dublin Union.

Moreover, this edition adds a bunch of letters that haven’t appeared in print before.  These include letters to Read the rest of this entry

“My object is to repeal the conquest – not any part or portion, but the whole and entire conquest of seven hundred years”: Fintan Lalor, 1847

A letter from Lalor to John Mitchel on the landlords, repealing the Union and repealing the Conquest.  Lalor subsequently shifted from the views here, becoming totally opposed to the landlords as a class.  (See “They or we must quit this island: Fintan Lalor on the landlord class, June 24, 1848”; I will have this up on the blog by the end of this month.)  The piece below originally appeared as a single, long paragraph; I have broken it up into shorter paragraphs.

From Sir C. G. Duffy’s Four Years of Irish History: 1845-1849, London, Paris & New York, Cassell, Petter, Galpin, 1883.

I know the Confederation and you by speeches and writing only.  But men may speak and write forcibly and yet act very feebly, and be very competent to criticize, yet utterly incompetent to construct.  Ireland’s greatest and last opportunity was in your hands – a revolution that would have put your own names in the blaze of the sun for ever was in your hands; you have flung it away as the cock flung the diamond, useless to him as the crisis was to you. Vain to him the flash of the gem which he could not polish; vain to you were the lightnings of heaven and the meteors of earth, which you could or would not kindle and guide.

You appear to be under mistakes as to my objects which I cannot permit you to retain.  I have nothing to do with the landlord and tenant question, as understood.  The question of the tenure by which the actual cultivator of the soil should hold his land is one for an Irish Parliament.  My object is to repeal the conquest – not any part or portion, but the whole and entire conquest of seven hundred years – a thing much more easily done than to repeal the Union.

That the absolute (allodial) ownership of the lands of Ireland is vested of right in the Read the rest of this entry

Fintan Lalor on Repeal, land ownership, insurrection and saving the Irish masses in the Famine

Lalor argued that only a social revolution could save Ireland from the destruction wrought by the landlords and British state through the Famine

The following article appeared in The Irish Felon, July 1848.  It was titled “To the Irish Confederate and Repeal Clubs”.  The sentences in brackets were Lalor’s introduction to the piece.  In this lengthy feature Lalor criticises the Young Ireland movement for the partial nature of its break with Daniel O’Connell and his Repeal Association; argues that the goal of the struggle has to be a social revolution and not simply repeal of the 1801 Act of Union; outlines different forms of insurrection; identifies the landlord class as a garrison class; notes the socio-economic impact of Famine on Irish society; and how a plan of action is needed to fight immediately to save the country from ruin.

I must admit I was sorely tempted to break up the more massive paragraphs!  However, I decided to resist the temptation.  

by James Fintan Lalor

[The paper that follows was written in the last week of January, 1847 – just one year and five months ago and was forwarded to one of the leading members of the Confederation for private circulation among the council of that body. I now address it to you just as it was written.]

I see no reason to prevent me mentioning that, in about a month from the date and delivery of my paper, I received a letter from John Mitchel stating that, on perusal and consideration of its contents, he had fully adopted my views, and that he meant to act on them so soon as occasion should fit and serve.                                                                                                                                  – January 25, 1847

My sole wish or attention is to suggest. Any attempt to convert or convince would be useless. Individuals are never converted; they must convert themselves. Men are moved only in masses; and it is easier to convert a million of men than a single man. But neither is the attempt necessary. To you, or any of those whom this paper is intended, the end of the clue-line is enough. You will be able, if you choose, to follow it out yourself. To lead you on, link by link, would be needless and absurd.

To anyone who considers their speeches, resolutions, and proceedings, it will, I think, appear manifest and marked, as it does to me, that the “seceders” have gone into organized action upon mere vague impulse and general feeling; with their objects undefined, their principles unsettled, their course unmarked; without any determinate plan, or, consequently, any fixed purpose – for no purpose can long remain fixed, but must be ever veering and wavering, without a plan to guide, control, and sustain it; and a purpose without a plan to confine and confirm it, is no purpose at all. Such a plan, too, is wanting as a warrant and guarantee to yourselves and to others that your object is feasible and your means adequate ; that you have gauged your enterprise and measured your means; and that the work you call on us to do will not be wasted. There are few worse things, even in the ethics or economy of private life, than labour misdirected; but what should be said of those who would, for want of a full and exact survey and calculation, mislead and exhaust the labour and means and strength of a people? It is not Read the rest of this entry

“(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.

Addressing 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