IWW members in the 1916 rising in Ireland

46 posts / 0 new
Last post
Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
Offline
Joined: 7-05-06
May 26 2007 20:56
Lurch wrote:
Please note, I no-where said that O'Casey didn't harbour nationalist illusions: I asked gerogestapleton why he was so keen to show them.

You also asked "Why didn't he find anything on-line to back up his assertion?" I took that to mean it wasn't possible to do so. Or what did you mean?

Quote:
the historic truth that not only O’Casey, but the working class in Ireland refused to participate in or support the [1916 Easter] rising"?

My impression, from the previous quotes from O'Casey's 'Story of the ICA' of 1919, is that he didn't participate because his nationalism was of a more leftist variety. The socialist character in 'The Plough and Stars' (1926) calls for a fight for a 'Workers Republic', but the evidence suggests that was just a call for an independent social democratic state with the Labour movement adequately represented within it. (In the next decade O'Casey was a supporter of Stalinism, show trials and all.) The commonly understood meaning of 'internationalism' was of fraternal relations between social-democratic nation states. To claim he was any more than a left nationalist (i.e. as 'internationalist' as most socialists of his time) in 1916-19 when he wrote his account of the ICA - I don't see any evidence for that.

It's obviously true to say the working class couldn't participate as a mass class-for-itself in a nationalist rising(!) - but workers certainly did as ICA & Volunteer soldiers. But the Dublin working class didn't have the choice of a conscious political decision to participate or not, as the ICC implies. The planning was secret, there was a chronic shortage of arms, much of the working class was half starved (so they looted the shops during the fighting). I don't think you can claim their absence as a sign of strong internationalism - many more Dublin workers fought for the Brits in WWI, as an economic 'choice' in preference to starving/unemployment.

BTW, O'Casey was locked up for the duration of the uprising as a suspected instigator of the fighting, and apparently narrowly escaped execution. If they'd killed him he'd be spinning in his grave now as he'd probably have become celebrated/deified as one of the great nationalist martyrs to the cause!

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
May 26 2007 21:05

Yeah I think Ret's interpretation of O'Caseys position is very much closer to reality - I actually don't understand the ICC canonisation campaign at all - their introduction to his history of the ICA is quite weird and bears little relation to the text itself.

Lurch
Offline
Joined: 15-10-05
May 27 2007 18:01

Thugarchist wrote

Quote:
Left Communism is a significant trend in what?

Lurch replied:

Quote:
Serious question or sarcasm?

And Thugarchist wrote

Quote:
A little bit of both actually. I'm certainly not suggesting that any other class struggle oriented left/anarchist/whatever are significant either, but no one is significant in the workers movement. Thinking any of us are seems mildly delusional.

Fair enough, I’ll try to explain myself.

georgestapleton in his tantrum on this thread said “Christ, I hate fucking Left Communists.”

To which I responded that he was writing off a significant trend in the workers movement.

By which I mean that trend which fought against the decay and betrayal of the 2nd International (let’s name Rosa Luxembourg as a figure, or the Dutch ‘Trubunist’ SPD as an organisation); which (as a tiny minority) opposed the First World War; which gathered its forces to greet and influence the growing workers’ rebellion against this war (let’s name Lenin here – “turn the imperialist war into a civil war”; which participated, not without some influence in the Russian and German revolutions and proletarian revolts against capital reverberating throughout Europe and which found expression in almost every corner of the globe.

By which I mean, with the ebbing of this ‘revolutionary wave’, those elements that fought against the degeneration of the Bolshevik Party and the Third International, starting with elements within the Bolsheviks themselves (the Workers Group around Miasnikov; Kollontai; Sapranov); the Amsterdam bureau of the 3rd International, animated by Pannekoek, Gorter); the KAPD in Germany; the Italian Left around Bordiga.

By which I mean, with the deepening of the counter-revolution, those individuals and organisations – now very much reduced in size and influence – which tried to understand, at a deep level, the ramifications of the period of history in which they found themselves, this epoch of “wars and revolutions”; who through polemic and debate attempted to understand contributing factors to the defeat of the Russian Revolution and the revolutionary wave; the relationship of party and class; and of both to the state; of national liberation movements, of state capitalism; of trades unions; of the rise of Fascism, the Popular Front in France and of events in Spain. All this whilst still trying to connect to strikes, agitating against the inter-imperialist butchery of World War Two as they were hunted down by Democrats, Stalinists and Fascists. Groups coming from the Dutch, German and Italian Lefts; groups in Mexico, France, Belgium, Greece and elsewhere.

Were the Left Communists the only organisations undertaking such work? Nope. Did any one component part hold, at any time “all the answers”? Nope. Did they even agree with each other on all aspects? Nope. Should their contribution – from before WW1 up to and after WW2 - be underestimated? Nope.

That’s why I call this current a significant trend in the workers’ movement. Does georgestapleton really ‘fucking hate Left Communists’ in their entirety or just the ICC? Who knows.

I agree with Thugarchist that today we should guard against being “mildly delusional” about the direct impact of revolutionaries in the immediate class struggle. I also think that part of the lessons of the past Communist Left is not to abandon the struggle for theoretical clarity, or for discussion, or for the regroupment of revolutionaries and joint work between them on agreed basis.

I don’t think today’s situation is one of historic defeat for the working class and that attempting to make one’s voice heard in movements of the proletariat or moments such as strikes and mass assemblies – they have existed over the past 30 years and continue to manifest themselves – are just pissing in the wind. I welcome the emergence of groups and discussion circles around the world – in Russia, in Korea, in the Philippines, in Turkey, in India, South America – who are open to discussions and joint work with organisations which today claim their heritage from the Communist Left. I think it’s a necessary antidote to tendencies towards despair, cynicism, isolation and ‘every man for himself’, not to mention a necessary antidote to the dominant ideas of society which are those of the ruling class. I think proletarian political organisations are produced by the working class for a purpose.

Sorry if that's a long-winded way of responding to your question.

Lurch
Offline
Joined: 15-10-05
May 27 2007 18:17

Ret Marut wrote:

Quote:
My impression, from the previous quotes from O'Casey's 'Story of the ICA' of 1919, is that he didn't participate because his nationalism was of a more leftist variety. The socialist character in 'The Plough and Stars' (1926) calls for a fight for a 'Workers Republic', but the evidence suggests that was just a call for an independent social democratic state with the Labour movement adequately represented within it. (In the next decade O'Casey was a supporter of Stalinism, show trials and all.) The commonly understood meaning of 'internationalism' was of fraternal relations between social-democratic nation states. To claim he was any more than a left nationalist (i.e. as 'internationalist' as most socialists of his time) in 1916-19 when he wrote his account of the ICA - I don't see any evidence for that.

I’m posed with a few problems by part of what you have written above – “My impression, from the previous quotes from O'Casey's 'Story of the ICA' of 1919, is that he didn't participate because his nationalism was of a more leftist variety.”

It’s difficult to know what you mean by the term ‘leftist’ here, particularly as applied to that period of history. In addition, was O’Casey’s nationalism ‘more leftist’ than that of Connolly, or ‘less leftist’ than that of Connolly? We can say for certain that O’Casey saw grave dangers in the planned uprising and didn’t support it while Connolly pushed for it.

In fact, were both these figures nought but nationalists? I don’t think so. Do you? (Genuine question). Were they proletarian fighters with illusions, widespread within the workers movement prior to and still lingering at that time, about the role of national independence in Ireland in furthering the workers’ cause? Were these illusions – particularly in the case of Connolly – strengthened by the rabid nationalistic climate of sections of the Irish bourgeoisie and reinforced by his alliance with a factiopn of them? I believe so.

Confusion on the ground about the tasks facing the workers movement at that moment in history – after the outbreak of world war but prior to the widespread struggles of workers which ended it – is one thing. Making a virtue out of that confusion today – by ascribing a proletarian or progressive character to the Easter Rising, or glorifying it decades after the event - is quite another (I’m not suggesting you personally do this).

In her 1906 pamphlet on The National Question, Rosa Luxembourg wrote: “Historical materialism has taught us that the real content of these "eternal" truths, rights, and formulae is determined only by the material social conditions of the environment in a given historical epoch.

The outbreak of World War 1 and the revolutions in Russia and Germany profoundly altered ‘the material social conditions’ of the epoch, ushered in a new epoch in fact. That revolutionaries in Ireland and elsewhere were in general slow to draw the implications of this is undeniable. We don’t have the same excuse today.

Ret Marut writes:

Quote:
It's obviously true to say the working class couldn't participate as a mass class-for-itself in a nationalist rising(!) - but workers certainly did as ICA & Volunteer soldiers. But the Dublin working class didn't have the choice of a conscious political decision to participate or not, as the ICC implies. The planning was secret, there was a chronic shortage of arms, much of the working class was half starved (so they looted the shops during the fighting). I don't think you can claim their absence as a sign of strong internationalism - many more Dublin workers fought for the Brits in WWI, as an economic 'choice' in preference to starving/unemployment.

Ret: I’m not sure just where the ICC (or I, for that matter) imply that the absence of the Dublin working class in the rising was a sign of strong internationalism.

In the middle of a war (literally, in many senses) in which workers continued slaughtering each other for the benefit of imperialism, such a mass consciousness in one city in one small country would indeed have been surprising at the time. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t there. Which is good enough reason, one would have thought, not to launch such an offensive against the British state’s forces at this time.

I do believe there existed a healthy class instinct not to get your arse shot off in fruitless adventures, something that O’Casey was keen to emphasise, particularly over the question of uniforms (see the earlier linked ICC article). But indeed that’s not the same thing.

Why apart from this class instinct didn’t the proletariat support or join in this manoeuvre? Was it because of the secrecy with which it was prepared? I don’t think this was the main reason.

Certainly, one major factor, as you rightly say, was the economically enforced conscription of vast swathes of the Irish proletariat into Britain’s armies.

Another reason was the bitterness left by the class battles in Ireland in 1913.

“This was the nearest Irish society to date has come to an open class war between labour and capital. For the first time ever, there was an open split between the proletariat and Irish nationalism. In book 3 of his autobiography Drums under the Windows, O’Casey reminds us that the Irish Volunteers were “streaked with employers who had openly tried to starve the women and children of the workers, followed meekly by scabs and blacklegs from the lower elements among the workers themselves, and many of them saw in this agitation a plumrose path to good jobs, now held in Ireland by the younger sons of the English well-to-do...” (Sean O’Casey and the 1916 Easter Rising, link previously quoted).

Another factor in the absence of the proletariat: “...Connolly never once appealed to the Irish workers to join the Easter Rising, or even to go on strike in sympathy. And when he led the occupation of the General Post Office on Easter Monday, the first thing he did was to turn out the employees there at gunpoint. He knew perfectly well that proletariat of Dublin, still furious about the 1913 events, would have nothing to do with a nationalist upheaval.” (Ibid).

The facts remain: O’Casey opposed the Easter Uprising - “Liberty Hall was no longer the Headquarters of the Irish Labour movement, but the centre of Irish national disaffection”. (From the 1919 article you unearthed, now in the Libcom library, and also quoted in the ICC article) - and the proletariat didn’t support it.

The ICC’s article that so enrages georgestapleton draws heavily on an interpretation of O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy plays. Did O’Casey’s view develop between the writing of History of the Irish Citizens Army (1919) and the first of these plays (in 1926, I think, though I stand to be corrected).

If so, could the Russian Revolution, and particularly the "growing number of strikes, strikers and strike days that Ireland saw between 1917 and the slump which set in at the end of 1920" have had an impact on O’Casey’s subsequent view of the Easter Rising, and indeed on his illusions in Irish nationalism? Strikes that were often accompanied "by well-organised picketing, sympathetic action and even active sabotage, and adopting the iconography of 1917, with red flags and even detachments of 'Red Guards'" which helped to "strike fear into the heart of republicans"; strikes later during which “Workers in Cork and Limerick took over some factories ... and set up 'Soviets', so-called in imitation of the Russian ones.

Could the fact that “these were crushed by local units of the IRA ... and ousted owners were handed back their plants at the points of IRA guns" (Revolutionary Perspectives first series, no.15) have dampened O’Casey’s illusions in Irish nationalism? I don’t know: I’m posing the question.

Did the June 1920 Dail Eireann proclamation against the class struggle, saying that it was "ill chosen for the stirring up of strife among our fellow countrymen,” have had any bearing on the radicalised content of O’Casey’s Dublin Trinity plays? Or the fact that the secretary of the Dail wrote "the mind of the people was being diverted from the struggle for freedom by class war"? (all quotes from ‘Irish republicanism: weapon of capital against the working class’ in World Revolution 231, February 2000 http://en.internationalism.org/wr/231_ira.htm

Or will someone give me an alternative reading of those works by O’Casey?

Ret Marut wrote:

Quote:
BTW, O'Casey was locked up for the duration of the uprising as a suspected instigator of the fighting, and apparently narrowly escaped execution. If they'd killed him he'd be spinning in his grave now as he'd probably have become celebrated/deified as one of the great nationalist martyrs to the cause!

Well, as you say, he did die a Stalinist, but I suspect you’re right nonetheless.
PS: Think I’ll switch to the Robots thread: it’s obviously where I belong and looks more fun.
PPS: Just finished March to the Monteria – now to hunt out the other 5 in the series!

Lurch
Offline
Joined: 15-10-05
May 27 2007 18:22

Dublin Dave wrote:

Quote:
A successfull uprising (which was a distant but real possibility) could have hastened the end of WW1. Britain would be militarily and politically weakened and would probably have had to make peace with Germany. Essentially it could have brought about a stalemate between the European powers. This would not have been a victory for the proletariat in an abstract sence but it sure as hell would have been a victory for the poor (proletarian) bastards who wouldn't have had to continue dying in their millions.

It would probably also have had the effect of hastening the collapse of the British and other empires. The collapse of the European empires would most definitely have been positive from the point of view of the working and peasant classes in Africa, Asia etc.
We need to remember that the working classes are not some abstract but are made up of real human beings. My great grandfather was shot by a German sniper in late 1918. The war ending in 1916 would have definitely been a victory for one working class family in Dublin.

Briefly: There’s quite a few of us who lost relatives in the 2 world wars and subsequently, in the pogroms and conflicts of capital: millions upon millions of proletarians since 1914. I’m sorry your great grandfather was among them.

It was the workers’ struggles in 1917 and 1918 that actually ended the First World War, not any nationalist uprising. From 1914 onwards, tendencies towards nationalism were tendencies acting against the proletariat, whatever their intentions. Tying the proletariat to “it’s own” bourgeoisie in the name of weakening imperialism (Ireland, Vietnam; Iraq; Venezuela, where ever) does not bring about an end to imperialism. It merely strengthens one part of it at the expense of another: never to the workers’ benefit.

I can’t honestly agree with the ‘could haves’ and the ‘probablys’ and the ‘what-ifs’ in the scenario of how a successful Easter Rising in Dublin would/could/might have triggered an earlier end to WW1. I could indulge in my own ‘what if’ scenario had German arms been landed in Ireland: it wouldn’t have the same outcome as yours! But to be truthful, I think it would be a waste of your time and mine. It didn’t happen.

Lurch
Offline
Joined: 15-10-05
May 27 2007 18:28

JoeBlack2 wrote:

Quote:
Yeah I think Ret's interpretation of O'Caseys position is very much closer to reality - I actually don't understand the ICC canonisation campaign at all - their introduction to his history of the ICA is quite weird and bears little relation to the text itself.

Cannonisation campaign? Hardly. I’ve already said that “Even on the national question, he (O’Casey’) was not necessarily clearer than those around him.” The ICC article says that the very title Irish Citizens Army is a compromise with and a concession to nationalism.

It’s just O’Casey’s position does appear to change quite a bit, along with the material circumstances, from 1910 to his death: from Protestant background to Irish Nationalist, to labour leader, to critic of aspects of nationalism (particularly through his plays) to end up, with the defeat of the workers’ movement, back in the bourgeois camp as a Stalinist.

No one's yet been able to demonstrate to me how and why the ICC article is so 'fuckin awful' and wrong on so many points.

On your previous post: sorry but I genuinely don’t understand the point you’re trying to make about ‘highpoints.’ I’ll leave you to choose your favourite ‘Irish Republican’ moment, if it’s all the same to you.

georgestapleton's picture
georgestapleton
Offline
Joined: 4-08-05
May 29 2007 00:44

I'm amazed by this thread, Lurch you sound like someone doing a pisstake version of an ICC drone. It's quite funny.

Lurch
Offline
Joined: 15-10-05
May 29 2007 10:57

Delighted to have amused and amazed georgestapleton, no small achievement given that you profess: "Christ I fucking hate left communists." You have not been charged for this service.
As for the political content - workers' attitudes, then and now - to the 1916 Easter Rising, well no doubt it will crop up again. LOL

georgestapleton's picture
georgestapleton
Offline
Joined: 4-08-05
May 29 2007 11:17

Yeah seemingly I had a tantrum when I typed that. I foamed at the mouth and as I fulminated rabidly, the veins in my eyes popping, and my clenched fist waving manically over my head, I condemned with utmost severity the ICC and their assorted gobshites who post here. In doing so I was betrayed by my fit of rage. Woe, I was not the only thing betrayed but I betrayed the invariant interests of the working class as represented once in Rosa Luxemburg, today in ... errr ... an internet persona named Lurch.

Topic locked