The revolt of the Ennis labourers: Workers' Liberty 3/35

Introduction

In the evolution of civilisation, the progress of the fight for national liberty of any subject nation must, perforce, keep pace with the struggle for liberty of the most subject class in that nation.

James Connolly

The children with whom I have played, the men and women with whom I have eaten
Have had masters over them, have been under the lash of masters,
and though gentle, have served churls.

Patrick Pearse

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood.

Thomas Gray

In Ennis, County Clare in the 1930's, the working class showed a great deal of resistance to the conditions in which they found themselves under Irish bourgeois rule.

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1. 1933. Ennis: the town. Background: Ireland's two revolutions

Ennis, Christmas Eve 1933

On Christmas Eve, 24 December 1933, in the West of Ireland town of Ennis, County Clare, members of the Gardai visited 26 labourers. They handed each one of them a summons to appear in Court on charges of intimidation, assault, and conspiracy, in mid-January 1934.

Ireland experienced two revolutions between the 1880s and the 1930s.

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2. Communism in Ireland

Communism in Ireland

What of communism in Ireland? James Connolly, whose whole history suggests that he would have rallied to the Russian Revolution and joined in the work of building the new Communist International, was of course dead 18 months before the Bolshevik Revolution. Jim Larkin, who would join the Communist International, was in America, and in the last part of his stay there, in jail. He would not return to Ireland until 1923.

Connolly led many of those who would have rallied to the Third International and worked to build an Irish section into an alliance with revolutionary nationalists.

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3. The Ennis bourgeoisie and the Ennis workers

The Ennis bourgeoisie

The fact that the Irish national bourgeoisie did not lead the national movement in 1916 and after did not inhibit them from from creating a thickly mythological account of Irish history as a nationalist, or ethnic-sectarian, heroic and unrelenting struggle for freedom.

The fact that the Irish national bourgeoisie did not lead the national movement in 1916 and after did not inhibit them from from creating a mythological account of Irish history as a heroic and unrelenting struggle for freedom.

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4. De Valera’s “Second Revolution” and the working class

De Valera’s “Second Revolution” and the working class

In power after the war of independence and the civil war, the Irish bourgeoisie cut back on the elements of a welfare state that had been developed in the old United Kingdom.

A wit said of the Sinn Fein faction that had won the civil war and had taken the name Cumann na nGaedheal (clan or gathering of the Irish): “come in a gale, go in a storm”.

With the backing of the Labour Party, De Valera became Taoiseach of the Irish Free State and started a very weak version of what would become the US New Deal.

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5. Ennis: 1932 to the General Strike of 1934

1932

Workers in the Free State faced a world of economic stagnation. In Clare the farmers were the new aristocracy, even though there were poor farmers in the west. The state was most responsive to their needs.

In Ennis, County Clare in the 1930's, most of the proletariat lived in the margins of a society of owner-occupiers where farmers mainly employed relatives, where division of the land had eliminated many of the old hired-labour jobs and where there was very little industry.

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