DO IRISH WORKERS NEED REPUBLICANISM? THE SAD STORY OF CONNOLLY'S HEIRS

Submitted by dalcassian on 7 April, 2009 - 6:59 Author: SEAN MATGAMNA

The men whose sons now rule Ireland viewed the Easter Rising as Larkinism run amok, and hastened to pass the following resolution: "The Council of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce hereby assure.his Gracious Majesty of the loyalty of the commercial community to his person and his throne They also do record their abhorrance of the dreadful scenes of murder, carnage and destruction resulting from the action of a section of the community in the city."

Quoting this in his recent pamphlet* George Gilmore explores the attitudes of the political leaders on hoth sides of the class line from the years leading up to the Proclamation of the Republic to its scuttling in 1921, and the forces which made for the Republic's rise and those which overthrew it: the Connolly' Larkin labour movement, and Griffith's Sinn Fein.

The sharp class line between them was drawn early in the industrial battles. Mobilising on each side of it were the forces which on the one hand established the Republic, and on the other hand destroyed it. Gilmore's conclusion, the logical one for him, is not, however, nearly so relevant as his description of these forces and events. Griffith, despite his racialism towards everything English, had an ideal of England and Ireland as partners in world imperialist plunder. A monarchist, he advocated an Anglo-Hibernian Empire, crowned by a dual monarchy, to give the Irish manufacturing class what can only be called 'Imperial Equality'. In l911 his paper 'Sinn Fein' demanded that British troop "cope with" "irresponsible forment~ ors of sympathetic strikes". In the~ same class camp were the recruiting sergeants for the imperialist war in Europe, the gentlemen who passed the above resolution, and the vultures who screamed for Connolly s death in May 1916.

In the War of Independence antirepublicans such as Griffith, murmering soothing words about a Republic. masquerading as revolutionaries, led the national upsurge; they kept tight control, used the IRA to prevent land seizures, and held back the masses under their 'Republican' camouflage. Until finally. trapped between these masses who were striving for a Republic of the working people, and imperialism, they handed over the counter for the best price they could get the Republic which they had reduced to an empty formula. ~

On the other side, stood Labour. Led by Connolly and joined by the old IRB of Pearse, it had tried to strike the first light for a "fire that would not burn out." all things being favourable, until "the last bond and debenture had burned to dust

on the grave of the last war-lord". Their goal was not Griffith's fleshpots of Empire, but a Workers' Republic, in alliance with the workers of a socialist Europe.

But Connolly left no heirs. In his place stood a bunch of the most tepid, timid, treacherous inadequates which ever immobilised and misled the working class. The Citizen Army was just another section of the IRA volunteers, and Labour was dragooned into line behind the bourgeois sham republicans. Here, a bolshevik combat party would have continued to lead the workers and small farmers in fighting for their own politics and their own demands, even while marching together with the antiimperialists of the IRB, it would have carried on the fight of Connolly to the end. But no such party existed. and Gilmore shows just how tenuous had been Connolly's position within the ITGWU. As a result it was Griffith, and not any follower of Connolly. who stood in the leadership of the Republic with full power to sell out and scuttle.

Death Agony

This, for Gilmore, sums up the situation. Being a republican first and a socialist second, he concludes that Republicanism, to succeed, needs Labour. No doubt this is true: but for us the question must be, does the working class need Republicanism?

The social explosive material that gave Republicanism its force 45 years ago was the question of the land—allied to. the old hatred of English tyranny. Today, the land question in its old form has been eliminated: the farmers' struggles are more like those of a death agony. and they could only play a revolutionary part if led by the working class. This class, augmented by the recent industrialisation and aggressive on the industrial front, is more than ever the only consistently revolutionary force in Ireland. The rump Republican movement has meanwhile vegetated: the Border in all these years has not called forth a revolutionary movement to end it. The IRA efforts have been a mockery,

Republicanism is reduced to the Big Solution of One-Nation-Alone. This, of course, is a solution to nothing. The old garrison imperialism. from which Ireland suffered for 700 years. has given way in most areas of the world to modern dollar-type imperialism, which cares little if its victims run their own diminutive armies, have their own parliaments. their own chair at the UN, or speak Arabic. Swahili, Urdu or Gaelic. It has its own language—money National 'Independence' has been graciously granted to the mass of former colonies because the Great Powers can rely on their overpowering economic strength to maintain their old dominance in a new form. Divided or not, capitalist Ireland will still advertise in foreign journals inviting businessmen to come and exploit Irish labour.

British imperialism will very likelv encourage a capitalist unification of Ireland, given entry to the Commol1 Market, But a unified Ireland, of course highly desirable. will still be as much equal to Britain or the USA as the worker is equal to the millionaire—the bourgeois formal 'equality' is just as much a sham internationally as nationally. The old demand for national independence meant freedom from oppression and freedom of development. Today these goals can no longer be reached by pure and simpl.e "Independence"—but by the linking up of a free Federation of Socialist States.

Thus, for revolutionary socialist workers today, traditional republicanism is itself just not revolutionary. The heroic republican tradition must be translated into the conditions of our day: advocating national independence, we must be clear that in the capitalist world economy, this is little more than a formality. Demanding reunification we must understand that it will be brought about, if not by the capitalisis therr1selves, then as an incidental in the establishment of a workers' republic. Supporting even limited struggles against imperialism, our task is to build a revolutionary movement of the working class to overthrow capitalism and join the . world's workers in abuIishing modern imperialism.

Preparation for the coming workers' revolution is the only objectively revolutionary activity in Ireland today. Gilmore's basic approach is to look for an alliance of bourgeois nationalists and proletarian socialists. But as long ago as the 1930s republicans like Gilmore and ex-revolutionary socialists, Stalinists, who had lost confidence in the workers and looked for a future bourgeois revolution formed such an alliance-—the Re publican Congress. lt failed. Only those who attempt to rouse the workers on their own class programme are revolutionary today: to place all the emphasis on an alliance agaipst imperialism of workers and republican bourgeois is like searching for last night's dream.

Nevertheless, Gilmore is a republican with a certain claim to sympathy—and for its historical analysis, this pamphlet can be a milestone for many republicans.

*) Labour and the Republican Movement, by George Gilmore, Republican Publication.
IRISH MILITANT
May 1967