On Patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel

Samuel Johnson was right, as often than not, when he stated that:

“Patriotism is the last refuge of the Scoundrel”

Redmonite jingoistic poster that promised Irish nationalists Home Rule if they enlisted in the British Army during World War One. The result being many thousands dying for nothing in the trenches of France and Belgium

Patriotism has been used by various imperialists and charlatan leaders such as Redmond and Carson, to send millions of working class people to their deaths while they sat often hundreds of miles behind the fields of carnage safe in the knowledge that they would not shed one drop of blood or even set eyes on their bloody handywork.  One needs only look at the ‘Patriot’ movement in the USA at present to sample their place on the far right of the Political Spectrum.

The struggle for national liberation and a Socialist Republic is a world away from what is now classed as ‘patriotism.’ Certainly, in Irish history patriotism was often equated with the struggle to free Ireland from British rule, especially in the age of Bourgeois revolutions where Thomas Paine’s “The Right’s of Man” was seen as a radical blueprint, when in fact it only substituted one ruling class, Absolutist Monarchies, for those of the current Bourgeois ruling class.  Even Wolfe Tone, the founding Father of modern Irish Republicanism and catalyst of the revolutionary United Irishmen movement, it could be argued, realised the means by which real freedom for the vast majority of the Irish people could be gained, lest they sacrifice their lives for a mere change of ruling class or an Irish Bonapartism when he stated that,

“Our freedom must be had at all hazards. If the men of property will not help us they must fall; we will free ourselves by the aid of that large and respectable class of the community – the men of no property”


For National Liberation and the creation of a Workers’ Republic

In countries still under the yoke of imperialist domination, genuine national liberation movements are to be supported, however those who would not seek economic liberation for the Proletariat have shown time and time again to be no better than those who ruled before them.  James Connolly, the Marxist revolutionary and ideological father of Irish Republican Socialism identified the charlatanism of so-called ‘love of Ireland’ that in just over a decade sent thousands to die in the First World War on the Redmonite promise of Home Rule and also viewed the limitations of one dimensional nationalism when stating:

“Ireland without her people is nothing to me, and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for ‘Ireland’, and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland, aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements which he is pleased to call ‘Ireland’. (James Connolly: The Coming Generation,1900)

Clearly, those who state that they ‘love Ireland’ without a desire for both economic and national liberation for the Irish proletariat are simply mouthing meaningless words, uttered by apolitical idiots and charlatans throughout history that relegate Irish Republican revolutionaries to the likes of the right wing ‘patriot’ movement in USA, the English Defence League or right-wing paramilitaries in South America (whose paymasters ‘love’ their country ‘so much’ that they assassinate homeless children as they ‘spoil’ the look of the place).  Clearly Irish Republican Socialism bears no similarity to such beliefs or actions and is the only means by which the vast majority of the Irish people, the working class, will see true freedom.

Alex McGuigan.


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