Nationalism and the 'national question'

1916: The Easter Rising

Ireland and the Revolutionary Tradition of Easter Week From Labor Action, 14 April 1941 Easter Sunday morning, 1916. Three o'clock. James Connolly. Irish revolutionary leader, was talking to his daughter and some of her friends, all asking why the revolt so carefully prepared had been countermanded. Connolly knew that the arms from Germany had been intercepted, he knew that the arrangements had broken down, but he knew that the British government was going to strike. He could not let the revolt be stamped out without resistance. It seemed to him, and rightly, that the resulting demoralisation...

From 1997: "Hong Kong on the auction block"

Editorial in Workers' Liberty magazine 39, April 1997. At the time of republishing (December 2021), the Chinese government has just spent two years radically demolishing Hong Kong's freedoms. A century and half a go Britain was the great world power, the pioneer and bearer of a new type of production by steam-driven machinery; her navy ruled the world's seas. By contrast, China was an ancient civilisation, grown decrepit and spiralling into decay and disintegration. Britain fought a series of wars to force China to open its borders to opium from British-ruled India - the "opium wars". Britain...

James Connolly and the Catholic "Orange Order"

Introduction, by Sean Matgamna The partition of Ireland in 1920-1 was and is an imperialist crime. Why? In principle Marxists are in favour of the right of compact minorities to separate off the area where they are a territorial majority from an existing state, if that is what most of them want. Vladimir Lenin outlined socialist principles here in a 1913 Bolshevik Party resolution: Insofar as national peace is in any way possible in a capitalist society based on exploitation, profit-making and strife, it is attainable only under a consistently and thoroughly democratic republican system of...

Pouliopoulos and "return"

Greek refugees from Turkey, 1922 The debates about “return” as the redress-slogan for the Palestinian people (Dale Street, Solidarity 606) echo the aftermath of the 1919-22 war between Greece and Turkey. The centuries-old Ottoman Empire collapsed in and after World War 1. Britain and France sought to scoop up most of its territories. Turkey was fighting to establish itself as an independent state. Greece, backed by Britain, went to war. Sections of the Greek ruling class aspired to a “Greater Greece” including the three great Greek city-populations of the time, in Smyrna (now Izmir)...

Kino Eye: A really bad film

For a change, a really bad film: Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995). Usually, I only recommend films that I like and are interesting. Dale Street’s article on a possible second Scottish Referendum prompted me to think of films featuring Scottish nationalism. The one film that outshines all the others, but primarily because of its ignorance and stupidity, is Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Take the well-known poster of William Wallace (played by Gibson) with blue face-paint and kilt. Scottish warriors stopped wearing blue face-paint many hundred years before and hadn’t yet adopted the kilt. The English...

Scotland and the "second referendum"

The SNP victory – or SNP-Green victory – in the Holyrood election of 6 May 2021 was a mandate for a second referendum on Scottish independence. The fact that the SNP did not get an absolute majority of seats or an absolute majority of the popular vote is irrelevant. The Holyrood voting system is designed to stop one party gaining an absolute majority of seats (and the SNP fell only seat short of that). And no one ever argued that the 1945 Labour government had no mandate because it failed to win 50% of the popular vote. The elections held on 6 May also strengthened Sturgeon’s position in three...

New mobilisations inside Israel

The new mobilisation of the Palestinians within Israel is, or could be, a historic shift. The Arab grandees, and much of the small middle class, had fled Palestine before the 1948 war started, many hoping to avoid war and return after the Arab states had won. The Arabs remaining in Israel after the war and the expulsions were mostly peasants. They lived mostly under military government until 1966. Large tracts of their land were seized by chicanery. As with the Palestinian Arab people in the West Bank and Gaza who submitted to Jordan and Egypt seizing those areas and extinguishing the UN...

Two states, equal rights!

On day nine of Israel’s bombing of Gaza, the percentage of civilian casualties is inexorably rising. Hundreds are dead. 58,000 are displaced, according to the UN. The bombs increasingly shatter the social infrastructure of the blockaded, pauperised territory: hospitals, electricity, water. The Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, surprised at Hamas’s ability to fire so many rockets, and as far as Jerusalem, is retaliating with overwhelming, brutal, vindictive military force, intent on wreaking maximum destruction before international pressure brings a ceasefire. The immediate frame is...

Moroccan offensive in Western Sahara

After sixteen years of war, on 6 September 1991, Morocco and the POLISARIO, the national liberation movement in Western Sahara, reached a ceasefire agreement, sponsored by the UN, for the holding of a self-determination referendum in which the Sahrawi people will decide their fate. This referendum has not yet taken place; until November 13 this year the ceasefire agreement was still in force. What happened then in Western Sahara? The ceasefire agreement, within the framework of Military Agreement No. 1, established areas in which both Moroccan troops and those of POLISARIO could not enter. One...

Self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh

Around 70,000 people — nearly half the population of Nagorno-Karabakh — have been displaced in the war which broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in late September this year, in spite of a shaky, Russian-brokered ceasefire signed on 10 October. The fighting is over the Nagorno-Karabakh region: a 95%-Armenian enclave of mountain territory inside Azerbaijan, with a population of about 150,000 until September 2020. The region set up its own parliament and declared itself independent in 1988. From 1988 to 1994, Azerbaijan fought a war to crush the self-governance of this region and return it...

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