Archive for the Irish Citizen Army Category

Main Easter Rising Commemorative Oration [2017]

Posted in Commemoration, Easter 2016, Easter Commemoration, Fallen Comrades, INLA, International socialism, Internationalism, Ireland, Irish Citizen Army, Irish National Liberation Army, Irish Republican Socialism, IRSCNA, IRSM, IRSP, James Connolly, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2017 by The Plough & The Stars

SOURCE: IRSP NEWS!

This years main oration was delivered by IRSP Ard Comhairle member and Trade Union activist Michael McLaughlin.

Michael McLaughlin reads the main oration

Comrades, supporters, friends, brothers and sisters one year on from the centenary of the 1916 rising we again gather to remember the sacrifice of all volunteers who fell in action in defence of the principles laid out in the  proclamation of the Irish Republic.

 

In particular this year we remember our young volunteers who died in defence of the Irish Republican Socialist Party’s right to exist. We owe them everything and as a new generation of republican socialists step up to continue the struggle for national liberation and socialism it’s on their shoulders we stand, united and stronger than ever.

 

Our journey to socialism was a natural progression out of necessity, the jackboot of imperialist occupation was our introduction to the class nature of society. We were failed, we all, at some point, lived with the bitter taste of poverty, our opposition to the physical manifestations of imperialism awakened a consciousness that naturally led us to socialism. As our contempt for the establishment grew so did our understanding that to be truly free, to be truly liberated, means giving ownership of the nation to its entire people.

 

We seen a society built upon inequality and exploitation of the communities we grew up in, wage slaves, everyone broken on some level all disenfranchised but not powerless, never powerless. The strength that it took to stand up against imperialism, to agitate and strive to confront our oppressors on any level possible, this is the strength that is alive in the Irish Republican Socialist Party today and this is the strength on which the socialist republic will be built.

 

Real change will come from the streets. As its only by the active participation of the masses, the dispossessed and exploited, taking control of their own interests for the good of our entire class can any change worth fighting for be delivered.

 

The time for a debate on the type of Ireland we wish to create is here. An Ireland with universal participation in real democracy for all citizens, constitutional rights to work, to rest, to leisure, the right to a properly maintained and funded state health service, care in old age and in sickness, a right to housing a right to education, a right to freedom of expression and a right to privacy, the right to the freedom of information, freedom of assembly, the right to religious worship or to choose not to, the separation of church and state, the right to artistic expression, the protection of the concept of diverse contemporary family. These things are not bargaining chips between the working and ruling classes, they should be enshrined in a progressive collective nation’s constitution, not become a construct of the capitalist toll bridge society to profit the few.

 

As the political establishments on both sides of the border continue to fail workers, as we witness the commencement of neoliberalist divorce proceedings between the capitalist states of Europe, in this climate a momentum towards an Irish border poll is slowly but steadily growing, we cannot ignore this. A cursory glance around the island points us to the conclusion of a society deeply divided and polarised by class, a border poll is just one issue that needs addressed.

 

We are serious about our political aims and objectives. We are serious about a united socialist Ireland,this process starts by dialogue between all progressive forces on what type of Ireland we wish to create. The IRSP are ready for that debate. We will never be a barrier to any serious attempts to remove partition, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with all who strive to achieve this, we are willing to share the important lessons we have learned standing outside the Good Friday Agreement though striving for a peaceful resolution of the national question.

 

All over Ireland a war is waging between bosses and workers. Corporations interests are protected by the state and the media, natural resources stolen and sold to enrich the few. Benefits sanctions attack our most vulnerable while working conditions are slowly eroded. Our trade unions are under constant attack. We stand in solidarity with everyone in their daily struggles. We cannot beg for equality from either the British state or the Irish capitalist state, asking for equality from entities built on hegemonic inequality is a futile act, we must take back what they have stolen, our nation’s wealth, our dignity, we must revive the collective aspirations of our class.

 

A merging of two corrupt capitalist states into one corrupt capitalist state is not good enough, the struggle cannot stop there, we strive for a society grounded in Irish neutrality and in the vision of Connolly that will never capitulate to, nor serve, the interests of the most wealthy over the needs of Irish workers.

There is much talk of the re emergence of a hard border due to a British exit from the EU.This hard border already exists due to British and European Union austerity measures all over Ireland, an uncomfortable truth for some. A most dangerous yet subtle hard border than has ever existed, a hard border that unemployment, poverty, lack of opportunities, underemployment, fear of eviction creates, a hard border that exists at the front door of the majority of homes on this island.

A hard border that prevents the active participation of citizens in society, a hard border at your own front door that breaks men,women and children, a hard border at your own front door trapping people in a cycle of debt and human exploitation. A psychological hard border that destroys the dreams, hopes, imagination and aspirations of our class to collectively achieve a society which protects people, not prosecutes, a society in which no man woman or child is left behind.

This year marks the centenary of the great October revolution. A time to revisit the spirit and determination of the Soviet people who created something unique, the world’s first socialist state, it’s a time to look at the similarities between the IRSP and the Bolsheviks. Both our political parties, although thousands of miles apart we cut from the same oppressed working class anti-imperialist and internationalist cloth.

Historically the IRSP, like the Bolsheviks had no problem in working outside the perceived norms of political activity when the situation dictated it. When seeking funding for their political activities both parties were not above engaging in proletarian expropriation. When facing the might of an oppressive imperialist state both parties were not above taking up arms against it. When facing reactionary counter revolution from within, both parties were not above physically confronting it in whatever way they seen fit. When facing a changing political climate both parties were progressive enough to change with the times.

As we move towards the centenary of the great October revolution the links between the 1916 Irish rising and the Bolshevik revolution are more intertwined than modern historians would like us all to believe.

Shortly after the nineteen sixteen rising a delegation of what were to become senior Bolsheviks arrived in Dublin from exile in London to learn the lessons from the Irish fight against imperialism. What they took away from revolutionary Ireland is all academic and up for debate. But Lenin said at the second world congress of the soviet international in nineteen twenties Petrograd that he considered James Connolly to be head and shoulders above above his contemporaries in the european socialist movement. Lenin said that the easter rising was a decisive blow against the power of English imperialism.

Comrades the complete and honest truth is a powerful weapon we must not ignore when we are confronted by the false propaganda churned out from the establishment. The very curriculum in our children’s schools is capitalist propaganda to create obedient lackeys, from the pulpit, newspapers, internet articles flows capitalist propaganda, it’s an instrument of their rule.

We have to break this cycle of lies we must continue to spread the message a that stable, sustainable, shared, socialist republic is in the people’s best interests, a free Ireland that belongs to them from Ballymena to Bantry Bay.

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Portraits of the '87 Martyrs are held by family members at the 2017 IRSP Easter Sunday procession.Many hundreds of the Republican Socialist faithful assembled upon Belfast’s Falls Road today (Easter Sunday 2017) to pay tribute to Ireland’s fallen martyrs and the revolutionary dead from all generations of the Irish National Liberation and working class struggles.

In particular recognition of the 30th Anniversary of the attempted neutralisation of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, pride of place was rightly given to the families of those INLA Volunteers who in 1987, gave their lives in defence of the IRSP and the primacy of revolutionary democracy.

Republican Socialist colour party salute the INLA martyrs of 1987.

Despite frivolous warnings from the PSNI/RUC a young Republican Socialist colour party emerged into large crowds congregated at Dunville Park on the Falls Road, before marching towards a small gathering of close family and comrades of INLA Volunteers; Tá Power, John O’Reilly, Mickey Kearney, Emmanuel Gargan and Kevin Barry Duffy, who had gathered with portraits of their loved ones.

Portraits of the '87 Martyrs are held by family members at the 2017 IRSP Easter Sunday procession.

The families of the ’87 Martyrs were then invited to form up at the immediate rear of the colour party, followed by wreath bearers representing the many families of INLA and IRSP fallen from all decades of the modern Republican Socialist movement.

A new appearance from the recently formed ‘Jemmy Hope Republican Socialist Flute Band’ Belfast, was met with enthusiasm from all in attendance, while columns of IRSM ex-Prisoners and veterans from around Ireland formed up at intervals, interspersed with other attending Republican Socialist and Republican Flute bands from around Ireland and beyond.

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Comrades from as far away as Sweden and France also joined in the procession which made its way up the Falls Road and into what can only be described as appallingly wet conditions and onto Belfast’s Milltown cemetery.

Upon entrance to Milltown it became apparent to all those in attendance that numbers had swelled to what may well have been record levels for a Belfast IRSM gathering, a fitting recognition of the determination of the ’87 Martyrs and all the INLA & IRSP fallen, who over the years imbued the wider Republican Socialist family with a spirit of eternal resolve and commitment to always bounce back, stronger than before.

Despite appalling conditions, flags are lowered at the home of IRSP founder, James Connolly

With proceedings chaired by Belfast IRSP activist John Nugent, this theme of resolve was touched upon by main speaker Michael McLaughlin from Strabane, who (in reference to the ’87 martyrs) reminded all those in attendance that ‘we stand upon their shoulders’.

Comrade McLaughlin then went on to touch upon the resounding political themes currently emanating from the Stormont establishment and mainstream nationalist politicians, reminding those in attendance of the ‘hard border at the door of all working-class families’.

Michael McLaughlin reads the main oration

He stated ‘This hard border already exists due to British and European Union austerity measures all over Ireland, an uncomfortable truth for some. A most dangerous yet subtle hard border than has ever existed, a hard border that unemployment, poverty, lack of opportunities, underemployment, fear of eviction creates, a hard border that exists at the front door of the majority of homes on this island.’

Confirming that the IRSP would get behind any progressive efforts to end partition, he continued however ‘A merging of two corrupt capitalist states into one corrupt capitalist state is not good enough, the struggle cannot stop there’.

Ex IRSM prisoner Jimmy McCafferty reads the INLA, IRSP & H'Block, roll of honour.

For Republican Socialist POW Jimmy McCafferty also gave what was a quite unique and personal rendition of the IRSP, INLA and H-Block roll of honour, paying attention to the individuals and how they died.

Comrade Canice Millen of the Republican Socialist Youth movement read out the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, while Comrades Danny Morrison (Derry IRSP) and Gerard Murray (Belfast IRSP) read out statements of solidarity from both the Republican Socialist Associations of North America and Republican Socialist Prisoners in Maghaberry and Portlaoise.

John Nugent (Belfast IRSP) chaired proceedings while the 1916 proclamation was read by Canice Millen

Wreaths were also laid on behalf of IRSP and INLA structures from across Ireland.

In what was a deeply moving and personal gesture, long term Belfast Republican Socialist activist Fra Halligan also read his own tribute to the fallen INLA martyrs of 1987, addressing both the personal loss of the families and friends of the fallen, but also the counter revolutionary dynamic which lay behind the events of that dark period, stating firmly that (contrary to media spin) what occurred was not factionalism in any form, but a premeditated attack upon the structured of Costello’s Irish Republican Socialist Movement, an attack which has had failed and which (should similar circumstances arise) would surely fail again.

Fra Halligan (Belfast IRSP) gives a deeply personal and moving tribute to the INLA martyrs of 1987

Fra Halligan (Belfast IRSP) gives a deeply personal and moving tribute to the INLA martyrs of 1987

Overall, Easter 2017 was a special occasion for the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, a living tribute and testimony to the spirit ideals and resolve of their fallen comrades and all of Ireland’s revolutionary dead.

Belfast IRSP activist John Kearny, proudly poses with family members and a portrait of his brother, INLA Vol Mickey Kearny.

A relative of INLA Volunteer Emmanuel Gargan rests at the Milltown Republican Socialist plot

Danny Morrison (Derry) reads statement on behalf of Republican Socialist prisoners.

Gerard Murray (Belfast) reads solidarity statements from comrades around the world

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Connolly, The Rising and The Unfinished Revolution

Posted in Irish Citizen Army, James Connolly, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

 

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This Easter marks the centenary  of the Easter Rising in Dublin against British imperialist rule. The outstanding revolutionary leader of that movement was James Connolly. There have been many attempts by some Republicans to portray him simply as an Irish nationalist. But Connolly was, first and foremost, a militant workers’ leader and a Marxist. He alone in the annals of the both the Irish and Sottish Movement succeeded in developing the ideas of Marxism.

Born in 1868 into a poor family in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh, James Connolly was a true proletarian. His working life commenced at the age of ten. All his life he lived and breathed the world of the working class, shared in its trials and tribulations, suffered from its defeats and exulted in its victories. Connolly was a self-educated man who became a brilliant orator and writer whose words were always aimed and intended to be understood by the Working Class, not so-called ‘Marxist academics’ ensconced in their ivory towers.

On the basis of a James Connolly’s careful study of the writings of Marx and Engels, he developed an independent standpoint, making an original philosophical and strategic contribution to the class struggle. Even more remarkably, he did this without the benefit of direct contact with the other outstanding contemporary Marxist thinkers of the time, such as Lenin, Trotsky or Luxemburg.

From the beginning, Connolly had to contend with the same problems that blighted the existence of the rest of his class: dire, desperate poverty, which at times made it all but impossible for him to feed his family. But nothing could deter him from his chosen path. With unceasing vigour and absolute single-mindedness, Connolly fought for socialism, in other words, the full socio-economic emancipation of the Irish working class. The programme of the Irish Socialist Republican Party, written by Connolly, was not a nationalist but a socialist programme based upon:

“The establishment of An Irish Socialist Republic based on the public ownership by the Irish people of the land,the means of production, distribution and exchange. Agriculture was to be administered as a collectivist public function, under boards of management elected by the agricultural population and responsible to them and to the nation at large. All other forms of labour necessary to the well-being of the community to be conducted on the same principles.”

Connolly was, first and foremost, a militant workers’ leader. The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), under the leadership of Larkin and Connolly, led the stormy wave of class struggle that shook Ireland to its foundations in the years before 1914.  This affected not only Dublin but also Belfast, where Connolly succeeded in uniting Catholic and Protestant workers in struggle against the employers. In October 1911, he led the famous Belfast Textile workers strike.  Connolly organised the workers of that sector, who were predominantly low-paid, females viciously exploited and victimised by their employers. (Unfortunately in contemporary times we still see this practice carried out against workers!)

The wave of strikes was countered by the employers in the notorious Dublin lockout of 1913. Here we saw the real despicable face of the Irish bourgeoisie: grasping, repressive, reactionary. The Dublin bosses, organised by chief Gombeen William Martin Murphy, chairman of the Employers’ Federation and owner of the Irish Independent newspaper, supported by Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Fein party, set out to crush the workers and their organisations. The ITGWU replied by blacklisting Murphy’s newspapers, and he retaliated by locking out all ITGWU members.

The issue of class unity runs like a red thread through all the writings and speeches of Connolly:

“Perhaps they will see that the landlord who grinds his peasants on a Connemara estate, and the landlord who rack-rents them in a Cowgate slum, are brethren in fact and deed. Perhaps they will realise that the Irish worker who starves in an Irish cabin and the Scots worker who is poisoned in an Edinburgh garret are brothers with one hope and destiny.” (C.D. Greaves, James Connolly, p. 61.)

Throughout the lockout, Larkin and Connolly repeatedly appealed to the class solidarity of the British workers. They addressed mass rallies in England, Scotland and Wales, which were also the scene of large class-based battles in the years before the war. The appeal of the Irish workers did not fall on deaf ears. However, in Ireland the Catholic Church and assorted bigots played their part in trying to break the strike. Their cause was enthusiastically supported by the rank and file of the British movement, although the right wing Labour leaders were preparing to ditch the Irish workers as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Despite the solidarity and sympathy of the workers of Britain, the trade union leaders refused to organise solidarity strikes, the only way that victory could have been achieved. In the end, the workers were starved back to work. Bitterly, Connolly noted:

“And so we Irish workers must again go down to Hell, bow our backs to the last of the slave drivers, let our hearts be seared by the iron of his hatred and instead of the sacramental wafer of brotherhood and common sacrifice, eat the dust of defeat and betrayal. Dublin is isolated.” (p. 23)

The Citizen’s Army

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In the years preceding World War One, the British ruling class was facing revolutionary developments in Ireland and in Britain. In order to head off the danger of revolution, they resorted to the “Orange card”. Edward Carson organised and armed the reactionary lumpenproletariat of the north east of Ireland into the Ulster Volunteer Force, who pledged to resist Irish Home Rule legislation by force, ironically, for those who claimed ‘loyalty’ to Britain they imported arms from the Brit’s belligerent rivals, Germany. Doubly ironic was the fact that they opposed by force of arms legislation passed by ‘Her Majesty’s parliament’ which they claimed allegiance to! When the Liberal government in London contemplated using the British army in Ireland, they were met with what is now known as the “Curragh Mutiny.” Connolly remained firm in the face of the reactionary rabble rousing and attempts at sectarian strife. He organised a Labour demonstration under the auspices of the ITGWU, “the only union that allows no bigotry in its ranks.” In answer to the sectarians and religious bigots, he declared class war, issuing his famous manifesto: “To the Linen Slaves of Belfast.”

In order to protect themselves against the brutal attacks of police and hired thugs of the employers, the workers set up their own defence force, the Irish Citizens’ Army (ICA). Indeed the ICA was the first Red Army. This was a socialist militia that the workers had organised themselves, on an armed basis to defend against the common enemy of the bosses and the scabs. The latter, it should be remembered, were much more numerous than at the present time, as a result of the widespread conditions of poverty and despair. The two main leaders were Connolly (himself an ex-soldier) and Captain Jack J. White DSO – a Protestant Ulsterman. But Connolly saw the ICA not only as a defence force, but as a revolutionary army, dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism. He wrote:

“An armed organisation of the Irish working class is a phenomenon in Ireland. Hitherto, the workers of Ireland have fought as parts of the armies led by their masters, never as a member of any army officered, trained, and inspired by men of their own class. Now, with arms in their hands, they propose to steer their own course, to carve their own future.” (Workers Republic, 30 October 1915)

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As we see from these lines, Connolly envisaged the ICA in class terms, as an organisation organically linked to the mass organisations of the proletariat. It was funded out of the subscriptions of the members of the union, and its activities were organised from Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the ITGWU in Dublin. The Citizens Army drilled and paraded openly on the streets of Dublin for several years before 1916. Here was no secret organisation engaged in the methods of ‘individual terrorism’* such as elements of the Narodniks but a genuine workers’ militia: the first workers’ Red Army in Europe, prepared to take armed action when appropriate.

Unfortunately, the movement in the direction of revolution in Ireland was rudely cut across by the outbreak of the First World War. In August 1914, despite all the resolutions passed by the congresses of the Socialist International, every one of the leaderships of the Social Democratic Parties betrayed the cause of socialist internationalism and voted for the War. The only honourable exceptions were the Russians, the Serbs and the Irish. Right from the start, Connolly adopted an unswerving internationalist stance, which was, in all fundamentals, identical with the position adopted by Lenin.

Commenting on the betrayal of the leaders of the Socialist International (which in latter days has become the organisational fraternity of such ville reformists as the present day British Labour Party and even the SDLP!), he wrote in Forward (15 August, 1914):

“What then becomes of all our resolutions; all our protests of fraternisation; all our threats of general strikes; all our carefully built machinery of internationalism; all our hopes for the future?”

And he reached the same conclusion as Lenin. In answer to the kind of pacifism that was the hallmark of Labour Lefts such as Ramsay MacDonald (at that time) and the leaders of the ILP, he wrote:

“A great continental uprising of the working class would stop the war; a universal protest at public meetings would not save a single life from being wantonly slaughtered.”

Connolly was not just a socialist, not just a revolutionary: he was an Internationalist to the marrow of his bones.

The 1916 Easter Rising

From the start of the War, Connolly was virtually isolated. Internationally, he had no contact. Outside of Ireland, the Labour Movement seemed to be as silent as the grave. True, there were symptoms of a revival in Britain, with the Glasgow rent strike of 1915. But Connolly feared that the workers of Britain would move too late. The idea of an uprising had clearly been taking shape in Connolly’s mind. The threat that Britain would introduce conscription into Ireland was the main issue that concentrated the mind, not only of Connolly, but also of the petit bourgeois nationalists of the Irish Volunteers. Connolly therefore pressed them to enter a militant alliance with Labour for an armed uprising against British imperialism. In the event, the leaders of the Volunteers withdrew at the last movement, leaving the Rising in the lurch.

Was Connolly right to move when he did? The question is a difficult one. The conditions were frankly unfavourable. Although there were strikes in Ireland right up to the outbreak of the Rising, the Irish working class had been exhausted and weakened by the exertions of the lockout. There were rumours that the British authorities were planning to arrest the leading Irish revolutionaries. Connolly finally decided to throw everything into the balance. He drew the conclusion that it was better to strike first. He aimed to strike a blow that would break the ice and show the way, even at the cost of his own life. To fight and lose was preferable than to accept and capitulate. When Connolly marched out of Liberty Hall for the last time that fateful morning, he whispered to a comrade: “We are going out to be slaughtered.” When the latter asked him: “Is there no chance of success?” he replied: “None whatever!”

Though small and stocky in physical stature, Connolly was undoubtedly a revolutionary socialist republican and syndicalist giant. His actions were those of a genuine revolutionary, unlike the craven conduct of the Labour leaders who backed the imperialist mechanised mass slaughter of World War One with the enthusiastic support of the Irish bourgeois nationalists. Yet, like all revolutionaries and indeed all humankind, he also made some mistakes. There is no point in denying it, although some people wish to make Connolly into a ‘nationalist saint’,  while simultaneously ditching or distorting his ideas. There were serious weaknesses in the Rising itself. No attempt was made to call a general strike. On Monday 24, 1916, the Dublin trams were still running, and most people went about their business. No appeal was made to the conscripted British soldiers.

Only 1,500 members of the Dublin Volunteers and ICA answered the call to rise. The nationalists had already split between the Redmondites – the Parliamentary Irish Group – who backed the War, and the left wing. However, on the eve of the Rising, the leader of the Volunteers, Eoin MacNeil publicly instructed all members to refuse to come out. As so many times before and since, the nationalist bourgeoisie betrayed the cause of Ireland, echoing Henry Joy McCracken’s words, that,

“The rich will always betray the poor”

The behaviour of the nationalist leaders came as no surprise to Connolly, who always approached the national liberation struggle from a class point of view. He never had any trust in the bourgeois and petit bourgeois Republicans, and tirelessly worked to build an independent movement of the working class as the only guarantee for the re conquest of Ireland. Since his death there have been many attempts to erase his real identity as a revolutionary socialist and present him as just one more, ‘officially sanitised’ nationalist leader. This is utterly false! One week before the Rising he warned the Citizens Army:

“The odds against us are a thousand to one. But if we should win, hold onto your rifles because the Volunteers may have a different goal. Remember, we are not only for political liberty, but for economic liberty as well.”

From a military point of view the Rising was doomed in advance , although if the Volunteers had not been stabbed in the back at the 11th hour, the Uprising could have had far greater success. As it was, the British used heavy artillery to batter the GPO (the rebellion’s command centre) into submission. By Thursday night, after four days of heroic resistance against the most frightful odds, the Irish revolutionaries were compelled to sign an unconditional surrender.

Although the Rising itself ended in failure, it left behind a tradition of struggle that had far-reaching consequences. It was just this that Connolly almost certainly had in mind. In particular the savagery of the British army, which shot all the leaders of the Rising in cold blood after a series of vengeful courts martial, caused a wave of revulsion throughout all Ireland. James Connolly, who was badly wounded and unable to stand, was shot strapped to a chair. But the British had miscalculated. The gunshots that ended the life of this great martyr of the working class aroused a new generation of revolutionary fighters eager to revenge Ireland’s wrongs!

Leon Trotsky, writing in 1916, shortly after the Rising paid tribute to,

“the heroic defenders of the Dublin barricades. The undoubted personal courage, representing the hopes and methods of the past, is over. But the historical role of the Irish proletariat is only beginning.”

The Easter Rising was like a tocsin bell, the echoes of which rang throughout Europe. After two years of imperialist slaughter, at last the ice was broken! A courageous word had been spoken, and could be heard above the din of the bombs and cannon-fire. Lenin received the news of the uprising enthusiastically. This was understandable, given his position. The War posed tremendous difficulties for the Marxist internationalists. Lenin was isolated with a small group of supporters. On all sides there was capitulation and betrayal. The class struggle was temporarily in abeyance. The Labour leaders were participating in coalition governments with the social-patriot traitors to their class. The events in Dublin completely cut across this. That is why Lenin was so enthusiastic about the uprising. But he also pointed out:

“The misfortune of the Irish is that they have risen prematurely when the European revolt of the proletariat has not yet matured. Capitalism is not so harmoniously built that the various springs of rebellion can of themselves merge at one effort without reverses and defeats.”

Had the Rising occurred a couple of years later, it would not have been isolated. It would have had powerful reserves in the shape of the mass revolutionary movement that swept through Europe after the October Revolution in 1917. But Connolly was not to know this.

Importance of leadership

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Some sorry ex-Marxists criticised the Easter Rising from a right wing standpoint, such as Plekhanov. In an article in Nashe Slovo dated 4 July, 1916, Trotsky denounced Plekhanov’s remarks about the Rising as “wretched and shameful”, noting the potential of 1916 as a catalyst for further proletarian action stated,

“Already into this uprising – under an archaic banner – it has injected its class resentment against militarism and imperialism. That resentment from now on will not subside. On the contrary, it will find an echo throughout Great Britain. Scottish soldiers smashed the Dublin barricades. But in Scotland itself coal-miners are rallying round the red flag, raised by Maclean and his friends. Those very workers, who at the moment the Hendersons are trying to chain to the bloody chariot of imperialism, will revenge themselves against the hangman Lloyd George.”

Unfortunately, this prediction was falsified by history. The tragedy of the Irish working class was that, unlike Lenin, Connolly did not create a revolutionary Marxist party, armed with theory, that would have carried on his work after his death. This was his biggest mistake, and one which had the most tragic consequences. In the same way that the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht later beheaded the German revolution, so the killing of Connolly removed any chance of the Irish working class leading the revolutionary movement against British imperialism. This was a heavy price to pay!

Connolly had created the Irish Labour Party, with a solid base in the trade unions and the working class. In effect, it was the workers of the Irish Citizens Army who had led the Easter Rising, not the petit bourgeois Volunteers. In fact, Sinn Fein played absolutely NO role in the uprising, while the Irish bourgeois nationalists openly betrayed it.

Yet, when Connolly was removed from the picture, it was the bourgeois and petit bourgeois nationalists who took advantage of the situation to seize control of the movement. Tragically, the leaders of the Irish Labour Party, lacking Connolly’s grounding in Marxism, proved to be hopelessly inadequate to the tasks posed by history. Instead of maintaining Connolly’s fight for an independent class policy, they tail ended the nationalists, standing down in their favour in the general election after the War.  Today, the Irish Labour Party bears no resemblance to it’s Connollyite origins and ranks as a cheerleader for the most reactionary of political policies.

Under the leadership of the bourgeois and petit bourgeois nationalists, the movement was side-tracked into a guerrilla struggle, and then betrayed. Fearful of the prospect of revolution, the rotten Irish bourgeoisie reached an agreement with London to divide the living body of Ireland. All Connolly’s warnings about the treacherous role of the bourgeoisie were confirmed by the terrible events surrounding partition. The legacy of this betrayal is still with us today.

For the last 100 years, the Irish bourgeois and petit bourgeois nationalists have demonstrated their complete incapacity for solving the tasks of the Irish national liberation struggle. In 1922, the bourgeois leaders signed the partition of Ireland. This problem cannot be solved on a capitalist basis. For 30 years the Provisional IRA failed to solve the national liberation struggle by an individualistic armed campaign whose aims were ultimately to gain entrance to the respectable corridors of bourgeois power, short-changing many of it’s bravest volunteers. Those tactics of ‘individual terrorism’ have absolutely nothing in common with the methods of Connolly and the Citizens Army, which were always based on class politics and organically linked to the proletariat and the mass workers organisations.

What have these methods achieved? Over three thousand deaths; the destruction of a whole generation of Irish youth; the splitting of the population of the North into two hostile camps; a terrible legacy of sectarian bitterness. And with what result? Has the border question been solved? Let us speak clearly: After the three decades of armed struggle, the cause of Irish reunification is now further away today than at any other time. Ignominiously, the leaders of the Provisionals have capitulated for the sake of a few paltry ministerial portfolios – ‘crumbs from the master’s table’. Nothing has been solved for either Catholic or Protestant working class people.

This is the terrible legacy of decades of individual terrorism and the total lack of any class or socialist perspective. True, there was a serious division in the past between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. But now in place of division we have a yawning abyss. Yet none of this would have been necessary if Connolly’s ideas and methods had prevailed.

In his lifetime, Connolly always fought for the unity of the working class above all national and religious lines. By concentrating on class issues, he succeeded in uniting the Catholic and Protestant workers in the struggle against their common enemy – the employing class. That is the only way to get out of the present mess. The only way to solve what remains of Ireland’s national problem is as a by-product of the revolutionary struggle for socialism. That was true in Connolly’s day. And it remains true today. There can be no reunification of Ireland while the working class remains divided along sectarian lines.

The socialist revolution in the North is inextricably linked to the perspective of socialist revolution in the South – and in Britain. In other words, it can only be solved with a proletarian and internationalist policy. There is still a ray of hope in the North of Ireland. Despite everything, the fundamental organisations of the working class – the trade unions – remain united. They are probably the only real non-sectarian mass organisations that still exist. This is the base upon which we can build! That would undoubtedly be the message of James Connolly, were he alive at this time.

One hundred years later, it is necessary to cut through all the fog of historical fantasy, revisionism and nationalist mystification that surrounds the events of Easter Week, and see the key role of the proletariat. What a great opportunity was missed with the death of James Connolly! But the new generation must take the lesson to heart. Connolly failed because he did not create – as Lenin created – the necessary instrument with which to change society: a revolutionary party and a revolutionary leadership!

Today, as Irish Republican Socialists, we pledge ourselves to defend the heritage of this great Marxist, fighter, and martyr of the working class. We must rescue the ideas of Connolly which have been stolen and distorted beyond recognition by Gombeen rogues whose reactionary world view would have been anathema to Connolly, socialism or the working class. We must continue the fight for Connolly’s ideas – the only ideas that can guarantee the ultimate victory for the Irish Proletariat, National Liberation and Socialism. We have began over 40+ years of struggle to create the necessary revolutionary organisation, soundly based on the programme, policy and methods of Marxism. And we must understand that such an organisation must be firmly based in the only soil in which it can grow and flourish: the trade unions and the organisation of Irish Republican Socialism.  In Scotland, England and Wales only similar revolutionary measures can bring true freedom for the proletariat there – it will never come from placing an ‘X’ on a ballot sheet every few years for politicians who care nothing but for their membership of the ‘Westminster Club.’

The Easter Rising was a glorious harbinger of what is still to come. The Revolution was left unfinished in 1916. The task now falls upon our shoulders, those who see the struggle for National Liberation and Socialism as symbiotic, who march behind the Red Flag of Socialism and the Starry Plough. Seamus Costello, who Nora Connolly-O’Brien, the daughter of Irish Marxist philosopher and Easter Rising leader, James Connolly, said:

“Of all the politicians and political people with whom I have had conversations, and who called themselves followers of Connolly, he was the only one who truly understood what James Connolly meant when he spoke of his vision of the freedom of the Irish people.”

It is correct to say that the Red thread of Connolly’s Revolutionary Republican Socialism still runs brightly through the Irish Republican Socialist Movement co-founded by Seamus Costello.  It would be folly to concur that Connolly would ever have condemned Costello’s politics or his movement’s aims, in fact it echoes Connolly’s vision for Ireland’s proletariat, when he stated,

“We want to build a society where our children can live in peace and prosperity, a society where they will control the wealth of this country.” (Crossbarry, Cork, in March 1976)

 

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By Peter Black and Alex McGuigan

  • Note: ‘Individual terrorism’ in the Marxist definition of the word, as opposed to it’s use by the Ruling class, means the use of fear-inducing violence by an individual, a political group or a social class to achieve some aim: it may be simply an act of revenge against injustice; an attempt to stimulate the masses to struggle and revolt; or an attempt to intimidate its opponents, to sap their will or ability to resist.

The Starry Plough of Revolutionary Republican Socialism Flies in Belfast!

Posted in Easter 2016, Easter Commemoration, Irish Citizen Army, Irish National Liberation Army, Irish Republican Socialism, IRSCNA, IRSM, James Connolly, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 25, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

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“Brilliant to see the various Starry Plough flags of the Irish Proletariat flying in the Mid-Falls and all over Belfast!  We serve neither King nor Kaiser, nor Westminster, Stormont or Leinster House!  Onwards to an Irish Workers’ Republic!”  (Alex McGuigan)

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“The red Starry Plough flies in the lower whack. The scarlet red of socialism and the 7 stars symbolising the Irish Working Class brought together in one flag.”  (Micheál Ó Ceallaigh)

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james connolly quote

Let us free Ireland! Never mind such base, carnal thoughts as concern work and wages, healthy homes, or lives unclouded by poverty.

Let us free Ireland! The rack renting landlord; is he not also an Irishman, and wherefore should we hate him? Nay, let us not speak harshly of our brother – yea, even when he raises our rent.

Let us free Ireland! The profit-grinding capitalist, who robs us of three-fourths of the fruits of our labour, who sucks the very marrow of our bones when we are young, and then throws us out in the street, like a worn-out tool when we are grown prematurely old in his service, is he not an Irishman, and mayhap a patriot, and wherefore should we think harshly of him?

Let us free Ireland! “The land that bred and bore us.” And the landlord who makes us pay for permission to live upon it. Whoop it up for liberty!

“Let us free Ireland,” says the patriot who won’t touch Socialism. Let us all join together and cr-r-rush the br-r-rutal Saxon. Let us all join together, says he, all classes and creeds. And, says the town worker, after we have crushed the Saxon and freed Ireland, what will we do? Oh, then you can go back to your slums, same as before. Whoop it up for liberty!

And, says the agricultural workers, after we have freed Ireland, what then? Oh, then you can go scraping around for the landlord’s rent or the money-lenders’ interest same as before. Whoop it up for liberty!

After Ireland is free, says the patriot who won’t touch socialism, we will protect all classes, and if you won’t pay your rent you will be evicted same as now. But the evicting party, under command of the sheriff, will wear green uniforms and the Harp without the Crown, and the warrant turning you out on the roadside will be stamped with the arms of the Irish Republic. Now, isn’t that worth fighting for?

And when you cannot find employment, and, giving up the struggle of life in despair, enter the poorhouse, the band of the nearest regiment of the Irish army will escort you to the poorhouse door to the tune of St. Patrick’s Day. Oh! It will be nice to live in those days!

“With the Green Flag floating o’er us” and an ever-increasing army of unemployed workers walking about under the Green Flag, wishing they had something to eat. Same as now! Whoop it up for liberty!

Now, my friend, I also am Irish, but I’m a bit more logical. The capitalist, I say, is a parasite on industry; as useless in the present stage of our industrial development as any other parasite in the animal or vegetable world is to the life of the animal or vegetable upon which it feeds.

The working class is the victim of this parasite – this human leech, and it is the duty and interest of the working class to use every means in its power to oust this parasite class from the position which enables it to thus prey upon the vitals of labour.

Therefore, I say, let us organise as a class to meet our masters and destroy their mastership; organise to drive them from their hold upon public life through their political power; organise to wrench from their robber clutch the land and workshops on and in which they enslave us; organise to cleanse our social life from the stain of social cannibalism, from the preying of man upon his fellow man.

Organise for a full, free and happy life FOR ALL OR FOR NONE.

(James Connolly: Let Us Free Ireland, 1899)

The Coming Generation by James Connolly

Posted in Ireland, Irish Citizen Army, Irish Republican Socialism, IRSM, IRSP, James Connolly, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 16, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

 

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Last week we witnessed in Dublin the first political parade of the coming generation.

Between twenty-five and thirty thousand children turned out and walked in processional order through the streets of the city, to show the world that British Imperialism had cast no glamour over their young minds.

And that in the person of Her Britannic Majesty they recognised only a woman – no better than the mothers who bore them, if as good.

It was a great sight to see the little rebels taking possession of the city – a sight more promising for the future of the country than any we can remember.

Well, the children did their duty. Now are you prepared to do your duty to the children? Listen, my patriotic friend! Every child in that army of processionists – being the children of the poor as they all were, for it is only in the veins of such the stream of patriotism flows pure and undefiled – is destined to become, if it lives, the slave of a master, and will grow up in a world which nowhere recognises its right to life, except on the supposition that it will make a profit for a master.

You rear your child up to love its country, and you support a social system which declares that the child has no right to the country, but must pay for permission to live on it as it is the property of private individuals.

You shout for liberty, and you surrender your children to the mercies of capitalism which will seize them as soon as they leave school, and will devote their little bones, muscles and undeveloped brains to the task of grinding out profits for a boss.

Are you doing your duty? Love Ireland! Yes, if by ‘Ireland’ you mean not only the earth and the waters, but the men and the women, the boys and the girls – the people of Ireland, in fact.

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’.

If you are proud of the children who responded to the call of their country, and passed unheeded the seductions of the tyrant, then bestir yourselves to win for them a right to live in that country, a right to enjoy its beauties, and revel in its abundance, irrespective of the wishes of any employer or landlord.

When Socialism is realised every child in our Irish soil will by the mere fact of its existence be an heir to, and partner in, all the country produces; will have the same right to an assured existence as the citizen has today to his citizenship – in fact that will then be the right of citizenship, the right to live in the country, and the right to enjoy those fruits of labour the country will yield to its children.

That is the reward you should render the children for their love of country; win the country for them and leave it behind you as theirs to enjoy free and unfettered – neither under the heel of foreign tyrant, nor yielding disguised tribute to native slave driver.

You cannot be doing, you are not doing, your duty to the children while you leave them to grow up amidst such surroundings as are to be found in the tenement houses of our city.

You are neglecting your duty as long as you allow your City Hall to be in the power of men who as landlords derive their living from the rents they extort out of the poisonous slums in which they are slowly murdering the children of the working class – those very children you professed to admire on Sunday.

You are traitor to your duty as long as you elect to Parliament the members of a political party which, like the Home Rule Party, is officered, managed and financed by that same class – the landlords of our city slums.

Ah, be true to your class, to your duty, to our children, and you cannot fail but be worthy of your country, and when next the non-Socialist politicians, or the municipal wirepuller solicits support:

Think of the children who swarm and die
In loathsome dens where despair is king,
Like blackened buds of a frosty spring
That wither sunless, remote they lie
From the love that nurtures each quickening sense,
While Vice, and Hunger, and Pestilence,
Breast-poisoned nurses, the babies drain dry.

And so thinking, take your place in the ranks of the Irish Socialist Republican Party.

James Connolly, Workers’ Republic, 15 July 1900.

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An Irish Citizen Army for the 21st Century

Posted in activism, Ireland, Irish Citizen Army, IRSCNA, IRSM, IRSP, James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Trade Unions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2014 by The Plough & The Stars

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The Irish Republican Socialist Movement has the very real potential of fully taking on the role of an Irish Citizens Army for the 21st Century. Connolly’s ICA was Europe’s first ‘Red Army’ and was intrinsically linked to the nascent militant trade unions of the day, taking direct action against employer abuse of workers, scabs, rack-renters et al. More significant was the clause, moved by Larkin, that,

‘Before being enrolled into the ICA, every applicant must, if eligible, be a member of his trade union.”

100 years later the lot of the Irish working-class is steadily regressing, poverty and housing is a disgrace, racism/fascism is raising it’s ugly head and there are more William martin Murphy clones living it up in 2014 than 1914 while we cravenly are told to tighten our belts by hypocritical politicians who spend more on a meal than many Irish families can afford to spend on the annual bare necessities. At the behest of Foreign bankers, foreign governments and global Capitalism working people are as ruthlessly exploited and cast aside, in even more punitive ways as those that have been the hallmark of the hated homegrown Gombeen variety.   Forced ‘austerity measures’ on workers with ‘zero hour contracts’, the shameful decimation of Ireland’s hospitals, public services, destroying Irish lives and the despicable evictions of families from their homes.

Direct actions by IRSP activists against Zionist products in solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza was praised by our comrades in the PFLP

Connollyite National Liberation and Socialism as opposed to Walkerite ‘Gas & Water Socialism!’

Unlike one-dimensional nationalists, such as Provisonal Sinn Fein, whose leadership backed the employers in the Great Dublin Lock-out of a century ago and in contemporary times continue in a similar modus operandi, Republican Socialists, as a genuine Connollyite movement who, in the words of the IRSM’s co-founder, Seamus Costello, primarily  we owe our allegiance to the working class! Likewise, unlike the Brit-centric  Left or ‘2 nations socialists’, the IRSM do not adopt their myopic approach that ignores the presence and impact of British imperialism and view the class struggle and the national liberation struggle as inseparable, in the same approach as Connolly, Larkin, Mellows, Costello and Ta Power.

Without second-guessing any potential overall strategy or tactical directions, it is suffice that as a Marxist revolutionary party the words of both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels strongly influence Irish Republican Socialists:

1) “We have nothing to lose but our chains – we have a world to win!”
and:

2) ” The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point, however, is to change it!”
and:

3) “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory” (F.Engels: Anti-Duhring)

Saoirse go deo!

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By Alex McGuigan
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