Soviet na hÉireann

For those that missed it, TG4’s documentary Soviet na hÉireann is currently online. (click Faisnéis – Cartlann on the left then select the programme)

Descrided by the station

Soviet na hÉireann explores that heady post World War 1 era when Ireland stood on the brink of a Soviet socialist revolution which would have utterly altered the course of its history

The documentary explores the extent of socialism during the period that went far beyond the more widely known Limerick Soviet

  • Harry Flashman

    Sounds fascinating and something I’d very much enjoy watching, can you provide a link to the actual programme rather than the TV channel’s default website?

  • Mark McGregor

    Harry,

    I can’t directly link but on the main website follow my instuctions above and you’ll get the programme.

  • Mark McGregor

    I should have said, it has English subtitles.

  • Harry Flashman

    And I should have read your instructions in the brackets, thanks I’ll check it out.

  • Harry Flashman

    Whoops! It crashes Firefox on my computer (admittedly a rather old one), I’ll have to try using my lap top instead.

  • Greenflag

    Mark McGregor ,

    Thanks for the link . A not so well known aspect of the War of Independence . I had a quick look see and will watch it all maybe this evening or tomorrow . Just as well they provide the english subtitles . My Irish is ‘rusty’ 🙁

    In retrospect the UK would never have countenanced a ‘Soviet Ireland ‘ in 1919 . There would have been huge opposition also from the RC and other Churches and instead of a ‘socialist’ Ireland we’d have had more likeley a Fascist Spain model – imo . IIRC Dev had a tough enough job facing that possibilty down 16 years later approx.

    SF prior to the split represented mainly the middle and lower middle class ‘rising ‘ bourgeoisie even if Connolly himslef was an exception to the rule .There were of course at the time attempts at creating German ‘soviets’ and also in other countries in the aftrmath of the great ‘slaughter’.

    Theoretically as per Marx – Britain , Germany and the USA should have been the first countries to ’embrace ‘ the new communist world . In practice it was Russia -probably because the majority of rural Russians were ‘serfs ‘ under Tsarist rule and this left the concentrated ‘urban ‘ poor with an advantage after the Russian surrender to the Germans in 1917 . By the tie the Tsarists could rouse the White Russian ‘rural ‘ support the Reds had taken power and the Tsar executed .

    Ireland’s cities in 1918 were the poorest and most deprived in the UK ,but there was a political middle class and there was a numerous rural farming class which having fought for so long to win what they had won, were not going to see their gains carved up by an Irish Soviet or for that matter a British Soviet .

    Thanks again -I’ll have a look and reply later with any final ‘thoughts ‘ on this interesting episode in Irish history

  • NP

    “Soviet na hÉireann explores that heady post World War 1 era when Ireland stood on the brink of a Soviet socialist revolution which would have utterly altered the course of its history”

    Slight exaggeration there. Limerick Soviet aside. Ireland was way to conservative to go soviet.

  • SF prior to the split represented mainly the middle and lower middle class ‘rising ‘ bourgeoisie even if Connolly himslef was an exception to the rule .

    As far as I remember from my History A-Level, Connolly wasn’t a member of Sinn Fein in 1916; it was admitedly a long time ago, is my memory playing tricks?

    Interesting link, although I tend to agree with NP, Irish society south of the border simply wouldn’t have been allowed revolution at that time- the church hierarchy expressedly forbade it.

  • Greenflag

    NP,

    ‘Ireland was way to conservative to go soviet.

    And still is . Labour and SF together can hardly make up 20% of the vote . They may do slightly better up to 30% if we have a very severe recession . But it would take a ‘famine ‘ or complete collapse of the economy to bring out Red Revolution and I don’t see either as possibilities . After this crisis Americans appear to be reviewing their collective attitude to ‘socialism ‘

    Even so I don’t envisage ‘The West is Red’ ever being sung from the steps of the White House 😉

  • The Forgotten Revolution – A great online book about the Limerick Soviet

  • Oops! Here’s the link – http://www.limericksoviet.com/Book.html

  • Dave

    It was quite a good program. The vintage footage was fascinating. Adding that women were sold into sexual slavery (to horny bachelor farmers) as a result of the policy of the right-wing nationalists (Cosgrave et al) the program was so critical of was a nice touch. It’s utter tosh of course, but a nice touch regardless.

  • earnan

    Please. The people, most IRA aside, were too scared of their local bishops and priests to even consider anything close to a “red revolution”.

    Didn’t the red flag fly over the GPO for a few days in 1923, put there by Liam O’Flaherty??

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    Watch it….ah sure everyone was doing it at the time, that and facism!

    Why are people who run along with the crowd so like sheep?

    BAAAAaaaaaaaaaa!

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    I watched it….ah sure everyone was doing it at the time, that and facism!

    Why are people who run along with the crowd so like sheep?

    BAAAAaaaaaaaaaa!

  • fin

    can’t find the link but I’ll look again, think it was a bit early for facism though Greagoir (what is it with you and Flashman and your fixation with facism,everythings facist, everyones facist)

  • The programme repeatedly and explicitly blames the Labour leaders for failing to put class before country. Fair enough.

    The whole mantra of the radical movement in the revolutionary period was: first, independence: then the worker’s republic. That derives from the explicit message of the 1916 Declaration. Accept that, and all else follows.

    It could be argued any failure of the Labour leadership was because of a prevailing lack of confidence. The essential problem was the movement was divided. In large part that stems from the execution of James Connolly, and the departure of Big Jim Larkin for the US. If we want to load the odium, for allowing the vacuum to persist, onto one individual, it should be Walter Carpenter, of the Socialist Party of Ireland, and later General Secretary of the CPI. He supported Labour’s abstention in the 1918 Election on the grounds:

    “He for one did believe that the working classes of Ireland were educated enough to justify the Executive in running candidates.”

    Similarly, on the issue of a general strike to support the Limerick Soviet:

    “There is no use in condemning the National Executive because they did not call a general strike. When the day came that they were class conscious and educated the workers would not want leaders – they would go out themselves.”

    The problem was the SPI was a construct from Connolly’s syndicalism, with its basis in Socialism made Easy. It remained little more than a Workers’ Education Association; and certainly not the template for a revolutionary cadre.

    What was missing was a dynamic leader.

    In the absence of a Connolly or a Larkin, if we seek the Iskra, the Spark who conceivably could, just could have ignited the whole inferno, one candidate was John Hedley (Seán O’Hagan), organising for the Socialist International in Belfast. He was, inevitably, arrested and, when released, flitted off to Munster before the pogroms destroyed the radical movement and any hope of a power base in Belfast.

    Meanwhile, in Dublin, Roddy Connolly and Seán McLoughlin were not men enough for the job (Connolly’s effort at a national programme, The Growth of our Party is testimony to that). The Irish TUC lost any real radicalism when Cathal O’Shannon and O’Brian were purged in October 1921 and Liam O’Flaherty was put to silence in January 1922.

    Above all, the TG4 programme showed up how the 1916 Revolution was subverted and betrayed by all, repeat all those who survived beyond 1922. Then the decline into a conservative theocracy was inevitable. And after that there remained only Ireland’s latest Leader:

    Mammon led them on,
    Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell
    From heav’n, for ev’n in heav’n his looks and thoughts
    The riches of Heav’ns pavement, trod’n Gold,
    Than aught divine or holy else enjoy’d
    In vision beatific.

  • Dave

    “Above all, the TG4 programme showed up how the 1916 Revolution was subverted and betrayed by all, repeat all those who survived beyond 1922.”

    On the contrary, the right to self-determination that was asserted in 1916 could only ever have been betrayed by those who sought to enslave the people within the backward and repugnant ideology of Marxism and its slighter spawn, socialism, thereby violating the principle of self-determination by denying the people the right to freely determine their own political, social and economic beliefs and to elect their own government accordingly. Self-determination means the freedom to determine, not a system that is predetermined and imposed on others without consent.

  • Yawn. On a point of fact, socialism predates Marxism, and is not its spawn.

  • Dave

    True, modern socialism is the spawn of many syphilitic fathers.

  • Harry Flashman

    An enjoyable hour’s entertainment about a largely forgotten aspect of the Irish War of Independence even if they did rather breathlessly adopt the Ken Loach position of giving the Reds a greater role in the struggle than realistically they deserved or could ever possibly hope to have attained.

    I particularly enjoyed the Knocklong Soviet Creamery in County Limerick (even if in the dramatisation it appeared to be the same creamery and creamery workers who were later expelled by the Free State forces in Wexford, a touch of the Loach’s there) but such events were ultimately incidental to the main campaign which was a struggle of the sons of the Irish Catholic middle class and small and medium sized farmers to take power in their native land.

    Creating Soviets had no part in such a fundamentally conservative “revolution”. As to the creation of “white guards” by the farmers of Waterford to protect themselves against Soviet agitators, well when one considers the genocidal horrors inflicted on the farmers of Russia by the Soviets in the 1920’s can you blame the farmers?

    At the end of the day, post Civil War Ireland for all its faults was a hell of a lot better place than post Revolutionary Ukraine.

    Can’t say I’m sorry Reds got such a hard time of it.

  • Permit me to break the Sluggerdom norm and stick to the point, rather than getting my personal prejudiced rocks off.

    Clearly, I saw a very different programme to many others. I watched the development of a clear thesis:

    Britain had portrayed the war as a struggle to protect smaller nations. At the same time, it denied Irish claims to nationhood … at the Paris Peace Conference.

    Returning Irish soldiers were very frustrated … that independence was once more being denied them. But many felt part of a greater struggle.

    Working people across Europe … were battling against those who had oppressed them for so long. In Ireland, ex-servicemen and militant workers … fought for political independence and an end to economic enslavement.

    Could our history have been very different had the labour movement rather than Sinn Féin led Ireland to nationhood?

    Had Labour leaders launched a worker’s revolution … against Britain, could we have avoided … the trauma of the Civil War … decades of grinding poverty … the tragedy of emigration … and the bitter sectarian partition of the island?

    There are enough gross simplifications in that prologue to make even Harry Flashman wince (lesser intellects than his would be wholly shameless), but the essential thrust of the rhetorical questions is valid.

    The answers must be “yes”: there must have been a better alternative to the townland prejudices of Fianna Fáil and gombeen mindset of Cosgrave’s Cumann. On the other hand, although an alliance of urban and rural workers could, just could, have averted the mediocre, bourgeois, chauvinist, near-theocratic republic we got, clearly outsiders would never have tolerated “socialism in one island”.

    To persist with “what if” a moment longer, if the programme implied there was a better road untravelled, it ignored the up-side of what did emerge. For all the faults of the 1937 de Valera settlement (which was the bottom-line of the revolutionary period), we avoided the worst outcome, one which was devoutly wished by many on the Right and around de Valera: a transplanting of the Salazar model to the 26 counties.

  • A simple soul like myself would have thought that catholicism could be a fellow traveller with socialism or at least co-exist but as I understand it in the real world catholism always in the end felt threatened by socialism.
    When the catholic church is threatened it has pretty much always done what is best for the institution and worried about its followers afterwards.I suppose it would have to be said it historically at least was good at that.

    Not having much knowledge of the protestant tradition it would be interesting to hear how protestantism has interacted with socialism.

  • Harry Flashman

    “catholism always in the end felt threatened by socialism.”

    The hundreds of burnt out and desecrated churches and legions of murdered, tortured and imprisoned clergy, that have always followed a Red revolution as night follows day, rather indicates that the Catholic Church knows exactly the nature of the beast.

  • So the attacks on churches have had nothing to do with the attitude of churches to the old regime, and their integral parts within it in places like C18th France, Russia, Spain etc.

  • reply to Harry Flashman.

    I suppose if you are competing for the same followers then the opposition sometimes “has to be taken care of.”

  • Harry Flashman

    The Red revolutionaries, be they in France, Russia, Spain, China or anywhere else have always loathed the Catholic Church and have always relished the opportunity to murder their members whereever they found them.

    I am no apologist for the Catholic church but I can see why Catholics might feel a bit nervous when the Reds start sharpening their bayonets.

  • Big Catholic church in Russia was there Harry? And how did the various churches feel about them? Maybe the hostility didn’t all run one way.

  • Harry Flashman

    OK split hairs why doncha? So in Russia it was the Orthodox priests who got murdered and not Catholics, the point remains the same.

    If you are a follower of Christianity and don’t wish to be ruled by atheistic megalomaniacal tyrants with a fondness for genocide and mass slaughter then be very careful when the Reds start organising in your neighbourhood.

    You and your family will soon be filling mass graves.

  • No, Harry followers of Christianity were not attacked (with the possible exception of China where they were viewed, often correctly, as agents of imperialism). What was attacked in Russia, France and Spain was an extremely powerful and reactionary institution that seized a large proportion of the produce of their work from the people, and acted as an arm of the state, preaching on behalf or reactionary and oppressive central governments and aristocracies. That bled the people dry. But of course while privileges were stripped there was little violence until the churches got themselves involved in military counter-revolution. But let’s ignore the facts.

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow ,

    ”Permit me to break the Sluggerdom norm and stick to the point’

    You could start a trend here 😉

    ..the essential thrust of the rhetorical questions is valid.

    It is but only if ‘events ‘ in Ireland at the time are viewed through a wider perspective than the island itself and through a longer historical setting going back to at least the mid 19th century . Once one starts ‘What ifing ‘ and scenario postulating then one has to look at not just the possible upside but also the potential downside .

    ‘On the other hand, although an alliance of urban and rural workers could, just could, have averted the mediocre, bourgeois, chauvinist, near-theocratic republic we got, clearly outsiders would never have tolerated “socialism in one island”.

    Indeed . Britain would no more have accepted a communist island to her west in 1923 than she would today . To those who shout what about respecting ‘national sovereignty ‘ my reply would be yes what about it then ?

    Might would have been proved right . I suspect many of the more conservative nationalist leaders in SF would have had enough political nous to have understood that .

    ‘For all the faults of the 1937 de Valera settlement (which was the bottom-line of the revolutionary period), we avoided the worst outcome, one which was devoutly wished by many on the Right and around de Valera: a transplanting of the Salazar model to the 26 counties. ‘

    Dev was regarded as a Red for most of the 1920’s and only proved himself to be ‘acceptable ‘ to the RC Church in the 1930’s post the 1932 election .

    While it is true that the labour leadership post Connolly was weak it can be seen in retrospect to have been just as well . Had the ‘soviets’ under Labour dominated been under a strong leader with nationwide appeal we could have had a worse civil war than the one we eventually ended up with ?

    The RC Church plus the Irish ‘kulaks ‘ and the rising middle class would have fought a ‘rearguard’ action’ and the country would have been destabilised to the point at which Britain would probably have been ‘welcomed ‘ back in to restore order .

    To envision a ‘Soviet ‘ victory in the Ireland of the 1920’s as being politically possible one would have to ‘revise’ the history of the previous century and imagine another Ireland in the 1920’s as opposed to the actual one which people on all sides had to deal with .

    That imagining would have to absent the 19th century famine and would posit an island population of 10 million people with 85% living at bare subsistence level poverty in rural areas and in urban slums the major cities .

    A mass ‘peasant/worker ‘ uprising in those circumstances might well have succeeded if it were led by the likes of a Connolly or an ‘Irish ‘ Lenin at least for a temporary period .

    Assuming such a revolution had succeeded would our successful ‘revolutionaries ‘ have moderated their ‘socialism ‘ if the ‘theory ‘ was not working out in practice ? Would they have ‘eradicated’ the ‘kulaks ‘ as the Russians did and create a home grown ‘famine ‘ ?

    I suspect that our ‘soviet ‘ revolution would have been very shortlived and would have left us with even a larger body count .

  • Maeve

    The Reds do not like the Catholic church?

    I thought that was Linfield.

  • Maeve

    Linfield are known as the bluemen I believe so a football faux pas there.

  • Harry Flashman

    “What was attacked in Russia, France and Spain was an extremely powerful and reactionary institution that seized a large proportion of the produce of their work from the people, and acted as an arm of the state, preaching on behalf or reactionary and oppressive central governments and aristocracies.”

    Maybe that is what the Reds said they were attacking, the end result was that thousands of people who wished to observe their religion and hold on to their property ended up being slaughtered and starved by the millions.

    Hitler may well have only wanted to extirpate the plutocratic class of parasitical bloodsuckers who were bleeding the decent Germans dry but the end result was the same.

    Millions of innocent people who objected to a fanatical regime were murdered for the crime of wishing to retain their religion and their families’ property.

  • Hitler may well have only wanted to extirpate the plutocratic class of parasitical bloodsuckers who were bleeding the decent Germans dry but the end result was the same.

    Turd Troll alert!

  • Sean Fear

    I find it hard to imagine less fertile soil for a revolutionary socialist uprising than Ireland in 1916. The British government, Unionists, the Churches, and conservative Irish nationalists would have united to put it down.

  • Dewi

    Ah Malcolm – not so very well expressed but Harry’s intent was irony I’m certain.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Troll alert!” ??

    Go fuck yourself Redfellow, I’m posting here on a more consistent basis and longer than you have, you’re the fucking troll.

  • Harry Flashman

    And no dewi it wasn’t irony, unless it has escaped your notice Communists have filled more concentration camps, jails, torture chambers and mass graves than the Nazis ever did.

    I happen to think that liquidating millions of peasants who don’t subscribe to the virtues of International Socialism is every bit as horrific and as objectionable as liquidating millions of Jews who don’t subscribe to the virtues of National Socialism.

    Stalin and Mao make Hitler look like a tuppence ha’penny operator yet some people still seem to believe the vile philosophy of the two former genocidal lunatics was in some way morally superior to that of the latter and would have been perfectly happy to see the same Red thugs that massacred millions in the Ukraine and China take power in Ireland.

    For pointing out such inconvenient facts I get called a troll by a pompous twit who can barely make more than one post a month.

  • To be appended to Harry Flashman @ 01:55 AM:

    … but who argues from fact and research, not from blind prejudice, and is generally ad rem rather than ad hominem. And who doesn’t claim to own the joint.

    I devoted a whole nanosecond there wondering which of the recent statements of our “School-house bully, with [his] shouts and great action” [Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Part 1, Chapter 5] can be verified from reality rather than blind assertion, and also which, if any, are relevant to the thread. To aid recollection, this was about the rise of radical activism in the Irish revolutionary period.

    In the era of which we should be talking, comparisons with Stalinist Russia, or Nazi Germany, or Francoist Spain (all of which I am prepared to debate, factually, relevantly and therefore elsewhere) are inappropriate.

    We should not be stooping to the level of the visiting journo at Kinshasa, looking for the cheap sensation, calling out: “Any nuns here who’ve been raped?” Nor should we exaggerate the scale of events in Ireland: the casualties throughout the Civil War period (which is effectively the period under discussion) were 800 Free Staters and about 400 republicans [see David FitzPatrick: The Two Irelands, 1912-1939]. As Ferriter indicates, this tallies with the Registrar General’s official return of 1,150 violent deaths in 1922-23.

    Now back to the issue.

    The TG4 programme correctly identified a major element in the social problems of that moment:

    Returning Irish soldiers were very frustrated … that independence was once more being denied them.

    The Saorstát government was acutely aware of that: there is a memorandum from a senior civil servant to the Cabinet (dated 26 September 1923) warning of the social consequences of 50,000 demobilized soldiers and the release of 11,000 detainees.

    Those consequences were not just political discontent: the Garda recorded 260 armed robberies and 119 armed raids in the second half of 1923. The government fully recognised this was criminal rather than political activity. So we got the 1923 Public Safety Act, and renewed impetus to restore policing (by September 1923 only 530 of the 870 police stations had been restored).

    By January 1924, Cosgrave’s government felt on top of things: Cosgrave himself took a relaxed view; and proposed an amnesty for crimes committed in the civil war. It was left to Kevin O’Higgins (surprise! surprise!) to be the hard man:

    Taxpayers in these areas are not receiving that protection which is the elementary duty of a government to afford. It is not now a question of defending the State and its foundations but a question of vindicating the rights of private citizens and affording them that protection against outrage which they are entitled to look for from the government in exchange for the taxes which it levies.

    O’Higgins identified “these areas” as Cork and Tipperary, Mayo, Clare, Sligo and Leitrim.

    Now, is there a chance that we can forgo the mindless abuse, and argue our propositions, preferably with resort to the occasional snippet of factual evidence?

  • Harry Flashman

    A long winded piece of shite Malcolm.

    Take back your charge that I am a “troll”, or even more offensively a “turd”, and I can debate you.

    Until such time as you do so you take your witless twittering and shove it up your arse; I have nothing to say to you until you respect a fellow poster and don’t fling outrageous personal insults against me and allegations which you well know to be untrue.

    The choice is yours.

  • Harry Flashman @ 09:37 AM:

    So, implicitly, you accept the thesis that the programme was:

    correct in suggesting there was a lack of leadership in the Labour leadership of the revolutionary period;

    and

    also correct in diagnosing there was a moment of revolutionary opportunity;

    but

    failed to link the upsurge in leftist political activism with a general social disorder?

    Furthermore, you explicitly deny that you tried to divert a thread into irrelevant hysterics about

    atheistic megalomaniacal tyrants with a fondness for genocide and mass slaughter?

    Which would, of course, be irrelevant trolling?

  • Greenflag

    Harry Flashman ‘

    The ‘Reds’ did’nt take power in Ireland and as Malcolm Redfellow and Sean Fear above pointed out it was never much of a possibility for many reasons.

    Hitler and Stalin had nothing to do with the Munster ‘Soviets’ .

  • Just finished watching the programme. Such a load of nonsense, however much we might wish it to be true. Certainly it did a good job of excavating a great deal of the social radicalism that was widespread in the island after WWI (and before, though I can understand for time reasons not going into that more, but something ought to have been said). But it seemed to me it was mixing Soviet up with trade union activity to give a greater appearance of strength and coherence than was actually warranted. And describing the First Dáil as in pursuit of a socialist republic was silly.

    The programme was right to point out the importance of strikes to the struggle for independence, but provided no analysis as to how the Labour movement might actually have become the leading force in the country, how it might have dealt with the Ulster question, and how it might have avoided the civil war – as opposed to a civil war of a different type.

    Essentially this was an ultra-leftist/Trotskyist analysis of what should have been in the period, with little reference to the facts on the ground. This is most especially clear in relation to Ulster. I also wonder why there was no reference to the continued activities of the Irish Citizens’ Army during this period, when at least one unit in Dublin retained its separate identity while acting under IRA orders. Joe Higgins has really good Irish, but he seemed an odd choice for this. Surely someone from the republican left would have been more appropriate.

    I don’t mind counter-factual history, but some grasp of reality is needed. Though again the programme should be praised for its work in bringing the level of labour discontent and activism to the public’s attention.

    Malcolm says a leader was missing. I think rather a disciplined and effective committed socialist party was missing.

  • Here’s a relevant wrinkle, derived from Tom Garvin [1922: the Birth of Irish Democracy] which might go some way to amplifying both the local tensions in Limerick (and, perhaps, also elsewhere) and the friction between “official” Labour and the radical upsurge.

    One consequence of the War of Independence was that British subventions to the county authorities ceased: first, in July 1920, to those controlled by Sinn Féin; then, after the Treaty, to all. This rendered many county councils effectively bankrupt. The Dáil’s response (and there were other factors, mainly over partisan control) was to seek to eliminate the county councils.

    The most obvious effect was further deterioration of rural roads. Then, sooo unlike now, roadwork amounted to outdoor poor relief … traditionally regarded as a form of charity or as a political ‘fix’ rather than as a real job. [Garvin, page 84].

    Moreover, and notably so in Limerick, most of the road workers were direct labour, and unionised. Typically, they were paid 40 shillings/£2 per week, a cause of friction with unemployed, landless labourers. A further level of tension emerged when it was proposed to cut this wage (to 35 shillings/£1.75): the unions noted that no parallel cut was proposed for the council officials. Garvin’s comment is:

    Direct labour suited the unions, as they had a direct input into the local government system and into the pro-Treaty party.

    A further factor was the mutual distrust between Dublin (either Imperial or Treatyite) and the countryside. Ernest Blythe is and was generally regarded as one of the competent Free State ministers — might Harry applaud his later connection with the Blueshirts? Blythe had good grounds for and was unabashed in his contempt for the local government over which he ministered (see footnote). Again I borrow this from a neat aperçu by Garvin:

    The further one went from Dublin the more energetic, in general, the resistance became. Meath went to law; Kildare acquiesced; Kerry fought and schemed; Sligo connived and fought; Leitrim sank.

    This acknowledges an essential (and even admirable) parochialism: it doesn’t matter where one is in the island of Ireland, whether one is unionist or nationalist, in matters lay or ecclesiatic, there is a deeply-engrained distrust of central authority. The central authority is there to be provide the means: locally, we deny that central bureaucracy the right to tell us “how” or “what”.
    _____________________

    In the spirit of seeking to uplift the academic tone around here, I repeat my previous ploy of having a footnote:

    Garvin has a story, well worth the repetition, about Lisburn-born Blythe and:

    … his contemptuous reply, in his capacity as Minister for Local Government in October 1923, to Macroom Rural District Council’s threat not to function until Republican prisoners had been released:
    I am directed by Mr Blythe to state that from his knowledge of the work done by An Comhairle Liomatáiste Maghromdha, he does not consider that any important public interests will suffer as a result of its refusal to function.

    _____________________

    So, Harry Flashman @ 09:37 AM, “long-winded”? Perhaps. But like the supplier of the chopped horse-manure for mulching my borders, I like to offer full-value and useful “shite”. But, as you point out, the choice is mine. And that of other readers and contributors, some of whom seem to prefer well-intended debate to arrogant bluster.

  • Conor

    “No, Harry followers of Christianity were not attacked (with the possible exception of China where they were viewed, often correctly, as agents of imperialism). What was attacked in Russia, France and Spain was an extremely powerful and reactionary institution that seized a large proportion of the produce of their work from the people, and acted as an arm of the state, preaching on behalf or reactionary and oppressive central governments and aristocracies. That bled the people dry. But of course while privileges were stripped there was little violence until the churches got themselves involved in military counter-revolution. [b]But let’s ignore the facts.[/b]”

    Well you certainly seem to be. Utter tosh.

  • Care to elaborate?

  • We are heading down several disparate rabbit-holes here, while other avenues of relevance and importance are neglected. I am particularly intrigued by three (forgive my glossing here):

    oneill @ 04:38 PM, ruminating on class as a dynamic factor in the composition of the 1916 rebels;
    Dave @ 07:27 PM, noting the passing remarks in the programme about sexual exploitation;
    blinding @ 10.06 PM on “catholicism could be a fellow traveller with socialism”, and wondering whether protestantism was a nearer route to socialism.

    Each of those is deserving of detailed debate and scrutiny, and has some relevance to the thread.

    I cannot see why we are pursuing the false hare started by Harry Flashman @ 1:35 AM over the “genocidal horrors inflicted on the farmers of Russia by the Soviets in the 1920s”. Stalin’s coercions in the Urals and Siberia occurred in 1927-8: the full-blown collectivisation of agriculture was decreed in January 1930. That hardly could inspire or justify the “White Guards” of Waterford in 1923.

    Let me stick with that last issue for this post.

    There was an agrarian conflict festering below the surface of the Civil War. Sinn Féin in Kerry had, legitimately, been trying to buy out land-owners before the Civil War. During the Civil War, as Bill Kissane [The Politics of the Civil War, page 161] notes:

    To the [Treatyite] government the IRA was also clearly behind the widespread reappearance of land grabbing. In March 1923, an army report from the Carlow and Kildare area detailed the involvement of the IRA in land grabbing in those areas, and urged the cabinet that it was ‘high time to teach those robbers a lesson and give the people some measure of confidence in the power of the State and some measure of security in their property’.

    On 23 April 1923, the minister of agriculture was bringing to cabinet fears about a ‘Back to the Land Association’. All of that precedes the strike by Waterford agricultural workers from 17 May, quickly broken when the army pushed farmers’ convoys through the picket lines. Even though de Valera had declared the ceasefire (30th April), the government, with some justification, saw what was happening in Waterford and elsewhere as a challenge to its authority. That also relates to my earlier point on the proposal to abolish the rural districts, and limit the functions of the counties.

    All of this was part of the narrative that Irish society was threatened: the topic exploited ferociously by the Treatyites throughout 1923, especially at the August election.

  • On the demobbed soldiers bit, I meant to say I thought this was over-hyped. Certainly Tom Barry and others were ex-soldiers, but there is little evidence that they were a major factor in either republican or labour agitation. And if you believe Peter Hart, they were targets rather than seen as potential recruits.

    The White Guards should be seen both as part of the massive outbreak of right-wing paramilitarism in Europe post-WWI and the history of class conflict between farmers and labourers in Ireland. To some extent, this was old conflict under slightly new labels.

  • Harry Flashman

    Greenflag I never said that Hitler and Stalin had anything to do with the Munster Soviet and I can’t see why you suggest I did.

    I pointed out that Communists have not exactly got a very pleasant record when it comes to dealing with farmers and peasants who object to the Communists stealing their property and trying to enslave them and this fact is attested to by historical record and the tens of millions of men, women and children whose long murdered corpses still fill the mass graves from Ukraine to China and on into Cambodia.

    To which I made the not unremarkable observation that Waterford farmers were therefore justified in forming self defence organisations against the nascent threat of a Red Terror in exactly the same way as blacks or Jews would be perfectly justified in organising themselves in defence of their families and freedom if they heard that fascists were organising in their neighbourhood. It’s really quite a simple concept but one which so many posters here seem incapable of grasping.

    As to [b]Redfellow[/b], I have always treated him with courtesy and respect when debating him, he seems incapable of responding in kind and has proven himself to be a churlish lout who not only can’t defend his own arguments without resorting to ignorant name calling and offensive insults but more importantly is clearly clueless as to what the actual meaning of the term “troll” is in the context of internet debates.

    He’s a twit and until such times as he learns good manners and common decency I will waste no more time on his pointless, longwinded, bloviating prattle.

  • DavidD

    Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing but it is very difficult to see how a Red revolution could have succeeded in Ireland in the 1920s. The forces of the Catholic Church, the farmers and the middle classes would certainly have made formidable opponents. Even if it had, or even looked like, succeeding the British would certainly have intervened. Britain, which only a few tears before had troops roaming around the Arctic and the Caucasus in support of the Whites in Russia, would certainly not have countenanced a Soviet government on its doorstep. It is just possible that a Communist government in Dublin would have triggered sympathy in Britain itself but this too is unlikely to have been more than a distraction.

    If there had been a Red uprising the resulting civil war in Ireland would probably have taken a form similar to that in Spain in the 1930s with terror and counter-terror leaving a legacy of hatred.

  • Greenflag

    Harry Flashman ,

    ‘I never said that Hitler and Stalin had anything to do with the Munster Soviet and I can’t see why you suggest I did. You seem to be accusing the Limerick/Munster Soviets of committing crimes which they would have committed if they got into power . Think about that for a moment .
    Normally one has to actually commit the crime before one is pronounced guilty however your experience in NI may have led you to believe otherwise . I’m thinking ‘internment ‘ and also Guantanamo and the ‘horrors’ of Galtieri’s gulags in South America etc .

    BTW Malcolm Redfellow ‘knows’ his stuff re that period of Irish History -more so than I do 🙁 I’ve even learnt a few things about that period which up to now I was just vaguely aware of but took little notice . I take his views seriously when he pronounces on serious topics .

    It is true that the totalitarian communists ended up ‘winning’ the numerical body count versus the totalitarian nazis 1917 through 1989 anyway . But these ideoligies are not the only ones in history who have the blood of millions staining their ‘ideological ‘ purity . Jared Diamond in his excellent book ‘The Third Chimpanzee ‘ has a list of ‘genocides ‘ worldwide from 1850 through 1960 approx 100 million IIRC . Since then of course there have been many more .

    Through the ages those who have died for Allah , Jesus Christ, and other Gods may well outnumber those who have died for ‘totalitarian ‘ politics . And yet even today when we ‘add up ‘ the not inconsiderable number of people who have been ‘demised ‘ by neo conservative forces this past couple of decades in Argentina , Chile , Bolivia , Philipines , Nicaragua etc the toll is in the millions .

    If people would only behave like animals the slaughter would have been a lot less 🙁

    Anyway this whole thread was based on a supposition that Ireland could have avoided it’s later problems of partition, poverty , etc etc if the ‘Soviets ‘ had attained power . I disagree with that conjecture -that’s all .

    If Ireland had had a strong Labour leader then perhaps as Malcolm suggest above we might have averted or ameliorated the worst aspects of our ‘theocratic’ state . But overall we would have had to climb our way out of the trough of economic dependency on the UK and this could only have been achieved through membership of a wider Economic Community such as the EU .

    In the case of HF versus MR re above subject -I recall the wise confucian admonition that ‘it is unwise for eggs to fight with stones’;)

    Are you still upset at Obama’s landslide victory and the sound of Republic seats crashing or is it the lost ‘investment ‘ at the bookies ?

  • Harry Flashman @ 04:11 PM:

    1. Sound and fury, signifying nothing?

    2. Harry’s specific assertion was:

    As to the creation of “white guards” by the farmers of Waterford to protect themselves against Soviet agitators, well when one considers the genocidal horrors inflicted on the farmers of Russia by the Soviets in the 1920’s can you blame the farmers?

    The farmers of Waterford could not know about, and therefore be frightened by “genocidal horrors” which were still several years in the future. The farmers of Waterford were not threatened by “Soviet agitators” (despite any insinuation by the programme) but were

    (a) fighting to protect their own incomes at a time of falling agricultural returns and
    (b) aiming to break the agricultural workers’ union (which they achieved in 1924) and reduce rural workers’ wages (which they also achieved: wages fell 20% in the next decade: furthermore there was no unemployment benefit; and unlanded workers were denied local franchise).

    3. Harry embellished this with, in the Irish context, the totally-irrelevant

    Catholics might feel a bit nervous when the Reds start sharpening their bayonets.

    That’s a bit rich, particularly as the only bayonets in this sad story were those ranged behind the Irish Farmers’ Union when it broke the “soviet” of herdsmen in Toorahara and Kilfenora, in County Clare. Harry followed this with the Grand-Guignol of

    If you are a follower of Christianity and don’t wish to be ruled by atheistic megalomaniacal tyrants with a fondness for genocide and mass slaughter then be very careful when the Reds start organising in your neighbourhood.

    You and your family will soon be filling mass graves.

    So, in regard to trolls:

    The nature of trolls is to slip from any definition intended to constrain their actions and to find new and innovative ways to be aggravating.

    It works for me, even if I should have put it down to ignorance rather than malice:

    Explain errors politely and reasonably; point them towards policies, the manual of style and relevant past discussions. Do not conclude they are a troll until they have shown complete inability or unwillingness to listen to reason or to moderate their position based upon the input of others.

    What all this has ignored so far is the extent to which the co-operatives were the victims.

    Let’s start with a bit of primitive technology: the mechanical cream separator. This replaced the old method by hand separation. It cost money. It therefore strengthened the power of the gombeenmen. The small farmers responded by combining into co-operatives. The co-ops were so radical they were backed by the Unionist, Horace Plunkett, who, in 1899 as Secretary of Agriculture, subsidised them. By 1900, 477 co-ops were up-and-running. Plunkett, for all his failings, was a pragmatist, and coined the slogan: Better business. better farming. Better living.

    George William Russell, better remembered as the writer “AE”, was more of an idealist. Editing The Irish Homestead he propounded that the co-operative movement would develop into rural communes: James Connolly agreed with that. So the co-ops were becoming politicized.

    Moreover, Plunkett, Russell and Connolly, for different reasons, had little time for Irish petty-capitalists and the Nationalist Party that represented them. The result was friction with the likes of the AOH and the United Irish League. When Plunkett affronted the Catholic hierarchy with his book Ireland in the New Century, he had a full house stacked against him — and therefore against the co-ops.

    Plunkett was sacked. The subsidy to the co-ops withdrawn. The IFU (i.e. the big farmers) happy.

    So, let’s summarise the position in 1923.

    Larkin returned from gaol in the USA (where, let it be remembered, he was detained as part of the Red Scare): he was then expelled from the ITGWU which he had founded. Wage reductions were imposed by the Treatyite government. Trades unions were systematically broken by use of scab-labour and black-lists. The IFU boycott, with official government support, closed down the “soviets” and many creameries. While the Right was united, the Left was divided into Republicans, Labour, Larkinites, ITGWU and WUI. That’s the Free State for you.

  • Dewi

    “Hitler may well have only wanted to extirpate the plutocratic class of parasitical bloodsuckers who were bleeding the decent Germans dry but the end result was the same. ”

    If that wasn’t ironic in the context I can only view it as racist – do you mean “Jews” by “parasitical bloodsuckers “

  • In fairness Dewi I think he was paraphrasing.

    Malcolm,

    I reckon the left was so weak (and I’d say that probably the majority of republicans were right wing) that while a united left might have been able to stand up for itself better, it is hard to see how the reactionary nature of the state could have been avoided.

  • Dave

    Malcolm is even more of a romantic that Dev. Instead of comely maidens dancing at the crossroads, his vision involves ploughs (imported by co-operatives bartering potatoes) and calloused hands and people dying in famines as they are stuck in the dark ages of a non-industrialised society bequeathed to them by the former colonial occupier. Malcolm, dear, medications and cars, et al, cost billions to import, and the only way of acquiring these necessities is to generate the wealth needed to import them is by becoming a modern industrialised and financial economy, not a terribly romantic agrarian co-operative run by socialist fuckwits. Ireland’s citizens remain the wealthiest per capita in Europe. Even as our wealth (created by capitalism) takes a hit in the current bust, we will still remain wealthier than our neighbours whose wealth is falling likewise. As for unemployment benefit in Ireland, it is 3 times higher than it is in England. This should now be slashed, as the kind of misguided ‘socialism’ that degrees that a non-productive member of society should be paid the equivalent of the minimum wage in the UK is no longer sustainable. None of these considerable advances would have been possible under your demented and utterly destructive vision, so I only commend the vision of the early citizens of the ‘free-state’ for rejecting your lunacy in its entirety.

  • Eh, it was socialists (as well as good old Dev and his autarky) who wanted to industrialise the country rather than maintain a dependence on exporting farm produce to Britain. But, once again, never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

  • Garibaldy @ 07:58 PM:

    Perhaps on some occasion we can debate those points further: I’m probably dropping out of this thread shortly, because of heavy commitments for the rest of the week.

    A place we could start is exploring the inconsistencies in Connolly:

    how his ideology built on Davitt’s,
    how he reconciled his personal catholicism with his socialism,
    how he had to reject both the Catholic Home Rulers and the Belfast ILP, because neither was a route to the Irish Socialist Republic.

    However, Connolly Mark One did bring the IRSP to a radical programme of national economic controls, liberal education, social welfare, universal suffrage and the 48-hour week. He was, of course, blinded by his double romanticism: that Dublin workers could be inspired by Jemmy Hope, and that the peasant/tenant could be led to co-operativism.

    His 1903 departure for the USA left a vacuum, which was promptly filled by the front organisations of the IRB. When they coalesced as Cumann na nGeadhael, that promoted Arthur Griffith and his “Hungarian” theories. When the Cumann, the National Council and the Dungannon Clubs duly merged to form Sinn Féin, the new party’s policy could reconcile both Connolly’s old sidekick PT Daly and the liberal-capitalist Griffith.

    Enter Larkin, stage left, to organise the Belfast docks. His technique of sympathy strikes subverted sectarian thuggery and lock-outs: thus was born a pragmatic trade-unionism, the ITGWU and its admission to the ITUC, the Socialist Party of Ireland, and thereby a strong leftist presence. Larkin then brought back Connolly to be the ITGWU Belfast organiser.

    Connolly Mark Two was now possessed of the wisdom of the Wobblies, that a syndicalist working-class could supplant the bourgeois state. A nice idea: except that the organised unskilled industrial worker was not commonly found in Ireland, outside of Belfast.

    So, flash forward to 1916. The thesis in Garibaldy @ 07:58 PM is well put. Sinn Féin had distinct wings: Eoin MacNeill, Bulmer Hobson and Arthur Griffith on the anti-socialist, capitalist Right; Pearse, MacDonagh, Eamonn Ceannt and Thomas Clarke vaguely further Left.

    There were further complications:

    The Volunteers were more respectful of Mother Church than the generality of the ICA. Moreover the Volunteers had almost an anti-intellectual bias derived from Pearse’s high moral tone: the national movement had been repeatedly betrayed throughout history, and this was Ireland’s last, great chance.
    The ICA was already in decline. Many had taken the Seán O’Casey route, and bailed out of what they saw as the ICA’s excessive nationalism.
    The Second International had collapsed. That, in the mind of Connolly, left Irish Labour uniquely positioned to oppose the War, and show the way to a socialist Europe.
    That, in turn, opened the matter of the German connection. The Right would go with it: Connolly and the Left sought to go it alone, and create an anti-capital revolutionary situation. Might we usefully muse that context: Casement being captured in possession of German weaponry, which was the Right’s reassurance policy; followed by Eoin O’Neill’s panicked cancellation of the Rising?

  • Dewi

    “Connolly Mark Two was now possessed of the wisdom of the Wobblies”

    Forget Harry a mo – Wobblies history is wonderful – Big Bill Haywood and the WMF…he came to Wales in the Cambrian Combine strike – and he told them to stop singing hymns and get serious….

  • Malcolm,

    I’d be very interested in debating these issues sometime. Perhaps a post on your blog, and hold the debate there? Or I suppose I could use mine. Let me know what you think.

    I do agree though that the unformed syndicalism floating about was a problem. I’ll have to go back and check my copy of Connolly’s collected works, but from memory I do think he saw a greater role for a political organisation towards the end of his life. Pearse’s last writing, The Sovereign Nation, I think is underestimated too.

    As for hoping Jemmy Hope’s example may prove useful, I guess I’m in no position to talk!

    (codeword labor – seems appropriate)

  • Dave on Oct 27, 2008 @ 09:09 PM:

    As I said in the immediately-previous posting, I’m under some severe time-pressures here. So forgive an ill-edited response.

    First, I cannot see the relevance of Dave @ 09:09 PM to the situation of 1923, which is the focus of this thread.

    For all its failings, the Saorstát showed enterprise in key areas. Patrick Hogan, the Minister for Agriculture, deserves credit for delivering exports vital to the new State. Inevitably, those exports must be mainly from agriculture, and particularly cattle and dairy products (pigs came into the equation a bit later, when it was noticed how successful “Ulster” bacon was as an export). Hogan set about delivering all that by reducing production costs. The downside of that was pressure on wages (see my earlier post). On the other hand, there was the Shannon scheme and rural electrification, the Barrow drainage, sugar beet processing, control and subsidy of agricultural products, the founding of the Agricultural Credit Corporation, setting up higher-level education in agriculture. Irish exports, at first, gained from two factors:

    Britain, uniquely among European countries, was wedded to free trade; and
    There was a prejudice among Irish consumers against Irish goods.

    The losers here, apart from the landless agricultural workers, were the small farmers, less able to export and still paying land annuities (the latter significant to Fianna Fáil’s gaining power).

    Sheer survival apart, Cumann na nGaedhal’s greatest achievement was to ensure that the new State established sound democratic governance. Seymour Martin Lipset [Political Man, 1960] argued that the survival of democracy required a level of material wellbeing. He saw Ireland (this is 1960, remember) alongside India as deviant cases — “too democratic” to fit his neat linkage of economic factors with democratic institutions. Frank Munger, studying the 1932 change of government, noted that Ireland, as late as the 1960s, scored lowest in economic prosperity among a score of stable democracies; and that Ireland’s historic profile better fitted a unstable or authoritarian régime. R.K.Carty [Party and Parish Pump, 1982] counted Ireland “among the most politically overdeveloped countries in the world”, suggesting that the century before independence generated experience of mass politics.

    So, credit where it’s due. The Cumann na nGaedhal government had a conscious policy of being inclusive: there was (relatively) little victimisation. Republicans in the public service kept their jobs (not so in the army, of course; but Ireland’s military was effectively demobilized after 1923]. Mulcahy expressly refused IRA veterans’ demands that those who served the Imperial administration should be dismissed and their jobs reallocated. The 1923 Civil Service Commission took appointments out of the hands of local politicians and the clergy: selection by examination replaced patronage. A national courts system was simplified and widely accepted (there was a kerfuffle over proper court dress; but Irish mockery settled that).

    I have tried here to stay relevant to this historical thread. This is my recognition of why the State succeeded. It may suit those who merely want a lurid political narrative that suits a narrow political prejudice.

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  • Harry Flashman

    Jeez Dewi I was of course explaining the justification that the Nazis used, not my own opinions.

    Greenflag, MR may know his stuff but I know that he insinuated I was a troll and a piece of shit, read the brief comment to which I objected.

    If he hasn’t the decency and good manners which I have always displayed towards him to retract that ugly and insulting comment and apologise for describing a fellow poster in such repulsive terms than I can only conclude that he is an ill-mannered gulpin.

    So what about it Malcolm are you an ill-mannered gulpin or will you now have the good manners to retract that dreadful comment about me?

    I have after asked you to do so several times, your failure to address the issue speaks volumes about your arrogance and offensiveness.

  • Dave

    Malcolm, while you are an eloquent writer (and always a pleasure to read), I think you tend to use a flourish of details to obscure spurious conclusions. Essentially, the reader is encouraged to agree with you because you appear to be an expert on the subject. It’s a bit like reading an architect’s itemised breakdown of his fee: lots of impressive sounding stuff that really doesn’t do much to reassure you that you haven’t just be conned out of the best part of 20k.

  • Dave

    Just to add to that we can only compare what-might-have-been with that which actually was: the Soviet Union. As that was the model that these socialists held out for Ireland, we can thank our lucky (plough and) stars that it never came to pass.

    Ireland, starting from the unhappy position of being the only colony in Europe, and being duly systematically stripped of its recourses and wealth, was left in a destitute position after the coloniser was ejected. The confidence of its people was also deliberately suppressed as a part of that process of subjugation, and the effects of that have only lessoned in recent years. As you said, Irish people didn’t want to buy Irish goods. That is true, but the reason is that they perceived Irish goods to be inferior to imported goods, not because they were inferior but simply because they were Irish. This process of inoculating feelings of inferiority into Irish people is ongoing, and many practice it in ever-so-subtle ways (Don’t they, Malcolm?). However, nowadays we see it for what it is and dismiss it with a sense of contempt.

    Starting from this low base and with post-colonial confidence handicap, Ireland made a phenomenal leap forward in less than a century under self-government to become the second richest country in the world per capita. It has the highest number of third-level graduates in the word per capita. It has the highest wage rates in Europe and the second highest in the world. Indeed, its unemployment benefit is the same as the minimum wage in the UK. It is ranked second on the Freedom Index of free market countries. None of these things would have been possible under socialism. So, this is the actual result of the ‘free state’ and if you try to argue that this or even better would have been the outcome under backward socialism, then I need only point you to the Soviet Union (and perhaps to a good psychiatrist) to conclude that you are talking twaddle.

    We may not have you (coveted) approval, Malcolm, but I’d rather we continue to gain kudos from media that matter. Sadly, the UK is way down there at 29. 😉

  • Only colony in Europe? Yes, because colonies often had political representation in the Parliament of the mother country. And their inhabitants often played central roles in the central government, and administered large parts of the Empire as the imperial masters. Never mind of course the many parts of eastern Europe that had a more valid claim to being colonised. And you’re accusing Malcolm of obfuscation in an attempt to sound expert.

  • Sent by iPodtouch.

    Dave @ 05.19 AM: noted. You are still confusing 1923 (my context) and 2008. We’ve done the ongoing consequences of the Lemass Wirtschaftswunder elsewhere (try writing that on a 3in touch-screen).

    Gardibaldy @ 10:27 PM and 10:00 AM: Agreed. I’ve tried to send a PM through your Hotmail account. Thank’s for the inputs.

    Dewi @ 09:54 PM: Yeah: I too still go gooey for all things IWW. We’ll have another go at that some time.

    And as for anyone else, sorry for what? Some things are beyond excuse as “irony”.

    Back to the delights of the (congested) A1(M). Over and out.

  • Harry Flashman

    “sorry for what?”

    Sorry for calling me a piece of shit, you piece of shit.