Archive for imperialism

PFLP: Arrests of our leaders will not deter us from continuing resistance

Posted in Ahmad Sa’adat, Alex McGuigan, Anti-Zionism, Armed Struggle, cadre, Gaza, Human Rights, Hunger Strikes, Imperialism, Internationalism, Palestine, PFLP, PFLP/IRSP Solidarity, Political prisoners, Solidarity, Statements, zionism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2017 by The Plough & The Stars

Source: PFLP

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine confirmed that the Zionist occupation forces launched a pre-dawn campaign of raids across the occupied West Bank of Palestine on Sunday, arresting a number of leaders and activists of the Front, led by the Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar, feminist activist Khitam Saafin and former prisoner Ihab Massoud, as well as a number of activists in al-Khalil. The Front declared that these attacks will not stop it from continuing its role in resistance to occupation and confronting the crimes and projects that attempt to liquidate the Palestinian cause.

The Front emphasized that these arrests only underline the futility of the choices of the Palestinian Authority to continue to bet on settlements, “peace process” and security coordination. It also confirms the correctness of the Front’s position and its continuing struggle to build the resistance and the primary contradiction with the occupation as a major feature of its approach and political positions.

The Front further stated that these arrests have come after the major campaign of incitement launched by the Zionist entity and its prime minister, the war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu, against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the resistance factions.

The PFLP urged the Palestinian masses to escalate the popular movement to support the struggle of the brave prisoners in Israeli jails, for Jarrar and Saafin and the prisoner Muhammad Allan, on hunger strike for 25 days.

The Front promised to continue to defend the rights and principles of the Palestinian people. Continued targeting by the occupation only emphasizes the importance of continuing the path to return and liberation.

الجبهة الشعبية لتحرير فلسطين

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
July 2, 2017

The IRSP Women’s Facebook Page

Posted in Uncategorized, Womens' Rights with tags , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

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The IRSP Women’s Facebook page is THE focal point for Irish Republican Socialist women to take part in discussions, read archived articles, view videos and post views on a variety of issues affecting women in today’s era of austerity and sexism.  It is a well managed page and although it is mainly female-focused, men are more than welcome to contribute also.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party has a proud history of promoting women’s equality and holds the distinction as being the first party in Ireland back in the early 1970’s to campaign for (and from it’s foundation enshrine in it’s constitution) the implementation of full female reproductive rights, including contraception, divorce and abortion on demand.  At this time, this was virtually unheard of in Ireland.  As with so many of the IRSP’s revolutionary politics, they have always been the most progressive party in the country.  Furthermore, women have always played a leading role in the Irish Republican Socialist Movement and many including INLA Volunteers Miriam Daly and Mary McGlinchey paid the ultimate price for their opposition to British imperialism.

Check the IRSP Women’s Page out here via this LINK!  Although it is an IRSP page, all progressives are welcome.  Feel free to visit and find out more about the IRSP’s politics and in Facebook parlance, give it a ‘Like!’  Below is a presumably early IRSP pamphlet and well worth a read:

 

Women In Ireland-IRSP Pamphlet Reprint

(The author and original date of publication of this historical IRSP document is unknown, but it was part of a series of pamphlets produced by the IRSP to give the working class of Ireland a clear vision of the IRSP’s policies.)


“…The first class opposition that occurs in history coincides with the development of antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression coincides with that of the female sex by the male.” (F. Engels: The Origin of the Family)


The oppression of women is thus directly linked with the institution of the family which emerged for the first time when there was an economic surplus in society, thus creating a material basis for class exploitation. The family became a unit of consumption, a vehicle of inheritance and a means of socialising children into the system.

The management of the family was no longer a public concern, and so the wife’s production became ‘private’, not recognised as socially necessary labour, ie. giving birth to a man’s children and looking after his house, while doing so increasingly in isolation from other wonen. Hence regardless of her status in wider society, within the family, the women’s relationship to the man became one or exploited to exploiter.


IMPERIALISM

British imperialism in setting up the sectarian statelet in the six counties and through partition, has deliberately fostered sectarianism amongst the working class and fragmented the women’s movement into those who are actively involved in or support the national liberation struggle and those who are pro-imperialist.


ROLE OF THE CHURCH

The church, particularly the Catholic Church, has continually taught that a woman’s main role in life is to marry, have children and stay in the home. Women are seen in the image of the Virgin Mary – pure, and that the sexual act inside marriage is for procreation and not to be enjoyed. Women are positively discouraged from seeing themselves as having their own identity and their own sexual needs. This view reflects itself in the Church’s total opposition to contraception, abortion and divorce and to women working.


CONTRACEPTION

Contraception is now available throughout Ireland from family-planning clinics but the moralising attitude of medical staff and the unnecessary prying questions into one’s sexual habits, prevents many young people from using these facilities. The entire process becomes very humiliating when, not only the clinics, but many family doctors agree firmly with the Catholic stance and refuse to prescribe any form of contraception. When it comes to sterilisation, a wife must have her husband’s written consent before the authorities will perform the operation – the implication being that she is his property.


ABORTION

In the six counties, abortion is illegal except on strict medical grounds, when a mother’s life is in danger or when the child will be deformed. In the twenty-six counties abortion is illegal. It is also illegal to give advice on how to obtain an abortion and at present there are court cases pending against various groups who are giving advice an abortion. A vigorous campaign has also been mounted (DEFEND THE CLINICS) to defend the right to freely give out information on abortion.

The I.R.S.P. totally supports a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion or not.

The I.R.S.P. supports the Defend the Clinics campaign for the right to freely give out information on abortion.


DIVORCE

In the 26 counties, divorce is unobtainable, yet another example of the indivisibilty of the Church and State. In the six counties, even with the opposition of the churches, the right to divorce exists, after two yeers with both couple’s mutual consent, or after five years without mutual consent.

The I.R.S.P. totally supports the campaign for the introduction of the right to divorce.


WORK

The Equal Pay Act has had much less impact here than originally expected. Women have traditionally been employed in “women’s work” like clothing factories, cooking, cleaning, typing, etc., so it is almost impossible for a woman to say she is paid less than a man for the same work as this situation rarely exists. Many women find they can’t make ends meet on social security and they’re forced to take on jobs without disclosing this to the DHSS ‘doing the double’. This always results in bad working conditions, low wages and the risk of being sacked at a moment’s notice.

This type-casting of women is reflected in the family and in particular in the education system where boys are steered towards science, metal-work, woodwork and are encouraged to continue their education. Girls on the other hand are trained to prepare themselves for their future lives as wives and mothers and are given no encouragement to continue their education.


CHILDCARE

Pre-school child care has been and continues to be grossly inadequate in Ireland. There are only four day-care nurseries in the six counties and places are few and far between and usually cater for what they call ‘problem families’. Play-groups exist in most areas, but the majority of these are only morning or afternoon care for any one child. This does not suit a working mother.

The I.R.S.P. supports the demand for the provision of free childcare facilities for all those who wish to avail themselves of it.


HEALTH

The recent government cutbacks in health, both north and south, have had detrimental effects on women’s health. Cervical cancer which relies on early detection through regular smears is on the increase, due to long delays in getting results back and long waiting lists for hospital appointments. Breast scanning facilities are almost non-existent. Addiction to nerve tablets is on the increase with doctors prescribing Valium as a cure for all ills.

The I.R.S.P. is actively involved in the campaign against the cutbacks and against increasing government privatisation of health care.


RAPE

Society has created many myths surrounding rape such as: rape is due to sudden uncontrollable sexual urges unleashed in men by the slight of a provocatively dressed woman; no woman can be raped against her will; ‘women secretly enjoy it’.

Rape is a violent crime often carried out under threat of, if not actual use of force, such as beating, maiming and the murder of victims. 90% of all rapes are planned in advance. Rape is man’s physical expression of his power to dominate women. The victim is humiliated in court and made to feel that she is on trial, her own private sex life will be displayed to the court. Many judges openly sympathise with the rapist, illustrated by the nominal sentences handed out, often less than a motoring offense. Because of the way women are degraded by the courts, many women will suffer rape and not report it, and so the official figures on rape are considered by many to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The image propagated by the capitalist media and the widespread distribution of pornographic literature increases the view of women as sexual objects to be ‘had’ and ‘conquered’. On a wider level it is a reflection of the wider use of repressive values in the capitalist system to make the man/woman relationship one of domination and not of equality.

The I.R.S.P. supports the demand that sentences for rapists should reflect the serious nature of the crime.


STRIP SEARCHING

Since 1982, when strip-searching was introduced for women prisoners, on the pretext of security, there have been over 3,500 strip-searches. A strip-search entails a prisoner removing all her clothes and having her body inspected in full view of prison staff. Sanitary towels must also be removed. Refusal to comply results in beatings and the forcible removal of clothing. Nothing of any consequence has ever been found a prisoner and its sole purpose is to degrade and humiliate the women prisoners.

The I.R.S.P. totally supports the campaign to end the degrading practice of strip-searching.


SEXUALITY

We believe in a woman’s right to define her own sexuality, either as a lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual. Lesbians experience discrimination especially in areas of child-custody, where a lesbian must often face a really hard legal battle for her children. She also faces the possibility of losing her job if she works in such areas as teaching or nursing.

The I.R.S.P. demands an end to discrimination against lesbians and a recognition that women have a right to define their own sexuality.

 

Alex McGuigan

Ireland: Trade unionism and Republican Socialism by Peter Black

Posted in Peter Black, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars
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Big Jim Larkin, an Englishman who united Catholic, Protestant and dissenter during the 1907 Dock Strike. Even persuading the RIC to go on strike!

The so-called “expert writers” on the Irish Trade Unions have no experience of the trade union culture in Ireland. Many of these trendy lefties have never attended a branch meeting, or participated in any trade union activity. Indeed some of these people live and work in Ireland and do not see the need to organise in their own non-union workplace.

According to the European Union half the working population in Ireland are trade unionists. Union density overall in Ireland was around 50% for a number of years in the 1970s and early 1980s, but by 1987 it had fallen to 43.5%. There has once again been a growth in membership since then, and current union density is estimated to lie at around 50%.

These British, French, Italian trendy lefties rather than criticise the Irish Unions should look at their own back yard; at the very least become involved in the trade union movement. Contrary to belief amongst the Continental trendy left, Irish trade unions have both a democratic content and mechanism.

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Republican Socialists acknowledge the Irish Trade Union movement as the organised working class. As such, it is our only access to organise workers. It is not our aim to control and manipulate but rather to give a lead with ideas and action within our specific unions. Republican Socialists need to mobilise trade unionists on the ground to re-engage with their trade unions by participation within the democracy of trade unions at all levels.

However, it must be admitted that it was through this democracy that trade union bureaucracy set in. The struggle to transform the unions inevitably comes up against this conservative bureaucracy, whose jobs depend on maintaining their role as middlemen in the struggles and negotiations between workers and bosses. The top three officials in SIPTU receive nearly £80,000 a year.

In 1987 the propaganda machine of the Free State government and the bosses worked overtime to sell the Social Contract. Trade union leaders too were keen to sell their members the idea of social partnership; management and unions would get together to cooperate over improving the state of the Irish economy in order to share out the subsequent wealth generated. The Programme for National Recovery committed these ‘social partners ‘ to “seek to regenerate the economy and improve the social equity of our society through their combined efforts.”

As long as workers worked harder the size of the national cake would grow and consequently the workers share would grow to.

Today the government and the bosses yell bellicose attacks at workers fighting to defend themselves that there must be no conflict, no challenge to the social partnership, which has produced this redistribution of wealth to the rich, or the whole boom will fall apart.

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Is it the case that the boom was created and is sustained by the social contract, which holds workers wages in check while the bosses rake in super profits? The social contract has been the cover behind which foreign capitalists have sought to boost their profits by rising productivity, that is changing working conditions to make us all work harder and longer.

As ICTU put it, partnership means moving from “the clenched fist of confrontation to the open hand of cooperation.” They are tied to the idea of social partnership, more accurately class collaboration. They act like referees in the fight between workers and bosses rather than leaders. Yet they are not the ones suffering short-term contracts or total quality management.

Nevertheless, this can change. One Republican Socialist openly opposed this bureaucracy [and] moreover, using the same democratic mechanism was elected with more than 50% more votes under his hat than the bureaucrat.

Revolutionary change of the unions is about a fight to change the leaders and in many cases the structures and rules whereby all trade union officials are elected, recallable. Moreover, to achieve this requires the organisation of the rank and file of the unions against the bureaucracy. Remember every vote in the trade unions is by postal ballot. It is worth noting that in some cases for a trade unionist to be elected on to the Executive, it takes 5 times as many votes as a local authority councillor. Trade unions might be “schools for socialism”, but trade union consciousness is not spontaneously socialist.

Some have asked the question why trade unions exist. Workers are aware what the Unions do. They know that they defend wages and conditions, and provide legal aid both inside and outside the place of work. These things are important. However, why was it important to fight for them?

The answer to this question is to be found in the foundations of trade unionism and more importantly socialism also. Workers had to fight for these things because the employers and governments were not prepared to give them until they were forced to. That is true and the force which they used was based upon their power to stop work, in other words in their power to strike. For that reason, Trade Unionists have always aimed at 100% organization, and have regarded the non-unionist as a danger and the strikebreaker as a “blackleg“.

Why have the workers had to rely upon their power to withhold labour? “For the reason that workers have no other power than their labour power.” In a capitalist society, the working class is in a distinctive position. In comparative terms, workers have no property. It is dependent upon the class, which exploits it. The capitalist, owns the factories, mills, mines, railways, transport. That is why the removal of labour by the workers can be so powerful a weapon when used on a large scale.

When Trade Unionists fight the employers on wages questions and the conditions of labour they are really fighting against consequences of the capitalist system. The existence of the private ownership of the means of production means also the private ownership of the things produced and their sale as commodities in competition with one with another.

Labour also is a commodity and those who sell their labour power, the members of the working class, manual and brain-worker alike, also compete (…)

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Trade unions are the basic organisation of the Irish working-class. However; they are much more than that. They are the kernel of the future Irish society within the old.

Of course, since the workers’ organisations exist in a capitalist Ireland they are subjected to alien class pressures. This includes both the Irish Ruling class and US imperialism. These pressures weigh heavily on the upper stratum and this often leads to degeneration. We are not dealing with an ideal norm, but with the mass organisations, as they really exist in class society. The distortions that occur, especially in periods when the working class is not on the move, can produce a feeling that the unions cannot be changed. This serious mistake is contradicted by the historical experience of the movement. Repeatedly the workers have moved to transform their organisations into organs and schools of solidarity, struggle and socialism.

The history of the Irish unions is not a straight line. On the contrary, it unfolds in an uneven fashion with various contradictory shifts in one direction or another. It is constantly characterised by the struggle between two traditions and two tendencies. A revolutionary one, reflecting the unconscious will of the working class to change society, and a subservient one, reflecting the pressures of the ruling class on the upper stratum, that then attempts to block the movement to change society and lead it instead like a lamb into safe channels.

In normal periods, the consciousness of the workers is affected by the dead weight of tradition and routine. In such times, most people are prepared to accept the leadership of the Professionals, Bourgeois and reformist politicians, Members of the Dail, Parliament, councillors and trade union leaders.

The Venezuelan CTV (the old national trade union federation) sold its soul to the old two-party capitalist system and governments it produced. For 40 years, the Venezuelan trade union movement lived through its worst period, because workers were puppets in the games played by the old parties (Copei and AD) and the bosses’ organizations. Venezuelan still remember how AD (Democratic Action) decided the fate of workers, bought and sold contracts and worked with the government to control the unions and the CTV. We should remember that the bosses’ strike of 2002-3was led by the CTV and Fedecamaras (the bosses’ organization) working hand in hand. The Irish trade unions were doing just the same when they signed the social contract.

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However, there are periods of crises and upheavals, when the working class is shaken out of the old apathy and begins to take action, demanding solutions, asking questions. Being close to the class, the unions reflect this changed mood very early on. Moreover, what happens in the unions today will be expressed perhaps as problems in the Irish Republican Socialist Party tomorrow?

The pioneers of Irish Labour, Connolly and Larkin were inspired by a vision. They believed that the trade union movement and Republican Socialism would become a powerful weapon of social emancipation. This revolutionary aspiration was, and in many cases remains, enshrined in trade union rules and constitutions.

Through the experience of collective struggle, the working class gradually raises itself to an understanding of the need to change society. It develops a sense of its own power and ability. One can see this in every strike. Marxists base themselves on this fact and strive to develop this tendency and bring it to the fullest expression.

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The role of Marxists in the trade unions is to make conscious the unconscious will of the working class to change society. The working class has within its ranks a tremendous strength and resilience. Even when it suffers a terrible and crushing defeat, it recovers and again reasserts itself. It is like the Greek god Antaeus of ancient mythology, who when thrown to the ground, drew strength from his mother the earth.

Whatever obstacles lay in its path, the objective conditions of life force it to continually struggle against the system of capitalist exploitation. Those who argue that the class struggle is out of date are obviously out of touch with the reality of Ireland in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Trade unions must be organised to recognize that all the efforts of the working class must be directed to the goal of the conquest of political power. Their fight in the industrial field must be linked with the fight to obtain a Socialist Government which, backed by the might of the working class, would transfer the ownership of the means of production and distribution from private hands to social ownership.

By Peter Black

(Edited by Alex McGuigan.  This article by Comrade Black was originally published in The Plough, E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Vol. 4- No 25, Monday, 19th November 2007)

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Easily Grasped Introductions To Marxist Dialectics

Posted in Karl Marx, Mao, Maoism, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

 

 

The videos above and the opinions within are solely the work of the creators and go some way to explaining Marxist Dialectics in the means for which it was intended, ie, for the benefit of ordinary working class people…

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War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare

Posted in Imperialism, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

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“The guerrilla fights the war of the flea, and his military enemy suffers the dog’s disadvantages: too much to defend; too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy to come to grips with.” (Robert Taber)

The ‘War of the Flea: The Classic Study Of Guerrilla Warfare’ by Robert Taber arguably surpassess  Carlos Marighella’s ‘Handbook of Urban Guerrilla Warfare”,”On Rural Guerrilla Warfare”,“Guerrilla Tactics and Operations” contained in his book ‘For The Liberation of Brazil’, perhaps the most valued studies in guerrilla struggle.

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‘The War of The Flea’ is timeless and has been utilised as a tactical manual from every group opposing imperialist armies, from the NVA and Vietnamese National Liberation Front (called the ‘Viet Cong’ by the USA).   Robert Taber, quotes Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese commanding general from 1944-1978, on guerillas fighting a conventional Western army, who obviously concurs that:

“The enemy will pass slowly from the offensive to the defensive. The blitzkrieg will transform itself into a war of duration. Thus, the enemy will be caught in a dilemma: He has to drag out the war in order to win it, and does not possess, on the other hand, the psychological and political means to fight a long, drawn-out war.”

 

Taber is an excellent analyst of anti-imperialist struggles and arguably, even more valuable, has an insight into the mindset of the ‘dog’ attacked by the ‘flea’,

“Whether the primary cause of revolution is nationalism, or social justice, or the anticipation of material progress, the decision to fight and to sacrifice is a social and a moral decision. Insurgency is thus a matter not of manipulation but of inspiration.

I am aware that such conclusions are not compatible with the pictures of guerrilla operations and guerrilla motivations drawn by the counterinsurgency theorists who are so much in vogue today. But the counterinsurgency experts have yet to win a war. At this writing, they are certainly losing one.

Their picture is distorted because their premises are false and their observation faulty. They assume–perhaps their commitments require them to assume–that politics is mainly a manipulative science and insurgency mainly a politico-military technique to be countered by some other technique; whereas both are forms of social behavior, the latter being the mode of popular resistance to unpopular governments.”

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Robert Taber’s classic ‘War of the Flea: The Classic Study Of Guerrilla Warfare’ is a must read for all revolutionaries, students of conflict and those interested in the principles of guerrilla war.  Although written in the 1960’s it has yet to be surpassed in content and is still used by peoples’ repressed by imperialist forces globally, from the Hezbollah, The Popular Front For The Liberation of Palestine, the Maoist Naxelite Guerrillas in India to FARC and ELN in Columbia, to name but a few….

The War of the Flea is available from all good booksellers, including Amazon, where it can be purchased for as little as just over £7.

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Alex McGuigan

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.

Sectarianism: The Vomit of Imperialism

Posted in Anti-Austerity, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 11, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars
belfast-outdoor-relief-strike-1932

The Belfast Relief Riots 1932 when the Falls and Shankill united over Stormont Cuts

It is well documented that plantation and the carefully planned division of the Irish Working-class in the north of Ireland are the vile spawn of British Imperialism that keeps Hibernians and Fascists in power with more money in their pockets than most of us could ever dream of.

 

Every morning I drive through both ‘Republican’ and ‘Loyalist’ areas  and I see more similarities than differences.  The working class in both areas, whether they be on low wages, unemployed or underemployed, all look the same, face the same fears of redundancy, benefit cuts or pay freezes.  This divide and conquer legacy keeps Orange and Green charlatans in power and the proletariat, whether they be Catholic, Protestant or Atheist, in their allotted boxes where they will be called upon to vote on a sectarian basis every few years.  I will leave it up to the reader to guess who are the real winners and who are put back in their boxes until needed by craven politicians.

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The Belfast Relief Riots 1932 when the Falls and Shankill united over Stormont Cuts

As a mature student at QUB some years ago many of my ‘peers’ were later to become senior figures in the likes of the DUP and I was appalled at the condescending, nay hostile, way they talked of working class people who lived in areas like Sandy Row, the Shankill and Taughmonagh etc.  It was as if they were ‘ballot box fodder’ and the scum of the earth (God knows what they thought of the Proletariat in Republican areas but that was not for my hearing, as a known Republican).

 

Despite it’s longevity, sectarianism is not monolithic!  The Falls and the Shankill united in the 1930’s over, topically enough, cuts to the meagre ‘relief’ welfare provisions of the day.  We are entering a similar period and it is time for Catholic and Protestant working class people not to be fooled by the Orange or Green card being played.  United we can sweep these Tory/fascists away.  And like Connolly, we are not ‘gas and water’ Socialists, our aim is an Irish Workers republic where Catholic, Protestant and dissenters can take control of the means of production and exchange.  I want no part of a ‘wrap the Green (or Orange flag) unitary state.  I want a state where the powers of the Catholic Church, the Orange Order etc are not what defines us.

It is time for us to unite irrespective of what church (or lack of one) one attends and we will reap a whirlwind together, united under the Red flag of working class power.  The power we can wield, forgetting old shibboleths, will overwhelm the Stormont charlatans and the Leinster House Gombeen men.

 

United as one class, the working class, we can improve our lives and the power we would possess would be more powerful than anything since the 1930’s.  United we stand, only divided we will fail!

jim_larkin

Big Jim Larkin, an Englishman who united Catholic, Protestant and dissenter during the 1907 Dock Strike. Even persuading the RIC to go on strike!

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