Marxist Study Guide: James Connolly and the Easter Rising
Date:1987
Organisation: Militant
Contributor:Dermot Connolly, Ted Grant, Peter Hadden
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

6th September 2021

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.

This is an useful addition to the Archive, dating from 1987, a Marxist Study Guide, issued under the broad Irish Militant umbrella with an introduction written by Dermot Connolly on James Connolly, articles by Lenin on ‘Class War in Dublin (1913)’ and ‘A Week after the Dublin Massacre (1916)’, ‘The Easter Rising’ by Peter Hadden, ‘Connolly and the Easter Rising’ by Ted Grant, ‘Connolly and the Easter Rising by Peter Hadden, ‘Lessons of the events in Dublin (1916)’ by Trotsky and ‘The Irish Rebellion of 1916’ by Lenin.

The Introduction is of particular interest, arguing that ‘The Protestant working class will never accept a capitalist United Ireland. On the other hand the Catholic population have never, and will never, accept the sectarian state in the north. There is no solution within the confines of capitalism’. And ‘Left leaders like Tony Benn in Britain could do well to study the writings of James Connolly. To simply argue for a united Ireland is to adopt a non-class position in the real concrete conditions which exist.’

And the article suggests that ‘There is only one demand, which if taken up and campaigned for by the labour movement throughout these islands, can pose a solution – for a socialist United Ireland, linked to a socialist Britain, in a socialist federation of Britain and Ireland’.

Noteworthy are the questions for discussion on the last page which include the following:

Haven’t the workers in Ireland always been divided by religion?

If Ireland was an important colony, why did the Liberal Government of the day propose ‘home rule’ for Ireland in 1913?

Didn’t the 1916 Proclamation show that Connolly accepted that the national liberation struggle came before the struggle for socialism?

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  • By: EWI Mon, 06 Sep 2021 11:07:59

    And the article suggests that ‘There is only one demand, which if taken up and campaigned for by the labour movement throughout these islands, can pose a solution – for a socialist United Ireland, linked to a socialist Britain, in a socialist federation of Britain and Ireland’.

    JFC.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 06 Sep 2021 16:52:48

    In reply to EWI.

    Fits in with their Lexit or Brexit strategy, where they see the future not on a genuinely international basis but in a return to a UK plus Ireland, back to pre 1922. Now the old United Socialist States of Europe might make sense. Imo they gut Connolly of any real meaning. They would claim they are updating him.
    On a positive note, I see RISE is doing some serious thinking on the National Struggle
    Their Socialist Federation think seems to fit every scenario, didn’t call for a Socialist federation of Argentina and Britain during the Malvinas crisis. This would make as much sense as one between any random countries.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 06 Sep 2021 18:32:27

    Did’nt their spokespeople on here deny they called for such a federation.Neo Unionists the lot of them.

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  • By: banjoagbeanjoe Mon, 06 Sep 2021 20:38:38

    RISE have done some thinking and writing on this and come up, I think, with a policy. Or at least a discussion document or two. Apols to petty burgess, I haven’t gotten around to reading that stuff yet.

    But, given the international split in the CWI, has the Irish SP done any revision or done any discussion on the national question, I wonder?

    Presumably, the Militant bit that stayed with the old British SP socialist federation of the British Isles line. (Militant Labour, is that their name? – Ó Cofaigh in Enniskillen is their most prominent member). It’s all a bit confusing!

    Personally, the idea of a socialist federation of any ‘nations’ anywhere sounds good to me. The key word, friends, is socialist.
    So, like, in a socialist federation let’s say of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England there would be, inter alia, no monarchy and no aristocracy, free healthcare for all, no church control or involvement in education – and good, sound, secular, historical materialist educational curricula, equal opportunities for all, no too big cars, no homelessness, no too big houses, no billionaires with their own space rockets, no billionaires, fair distribution of the wealth of the federation among the people of the fedeation, good tv (sorry, no Love Island), no Wetherspoons or no other non-union services or industries, respect for minorities and all cultures and languages and dialects and accents. Like the Kinks said – there will be equality and no suppression of minorities ooh la la-la.
    Look, some of you lot know more about this socialism thing than I do, so you can fill in the gaps and describe it better than me.
    But I don’t get how people who call themselves socialist can be so horrified at the idea of a SOCIALIST federation of anywhere.

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  • By: EWI Mon, 06 Sep 2021 21:10:49

    In reply to banjoagbeanjoe.

    So, like, in a socialist federation let’s say of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England there would be, inter alia, no monarchy and no aristocracy

    Now that’s a step too far. If we’re going to dabble in complete fantasy, I’m all up for the Arthurian people’s monarchy:

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  • By: banjoagbeanjoe Mon, 06 Sep 2021 21:39:08

    In reply to EWI.

    Oops. I forgot. Add to the list: Re-education camps in the Bog of Allen, Manchester Moors, Sperrins and Scottish Highlands for those who require it (re-education). Candidates for the camps to be nominated by yours truly.

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  • By: Liberius Mon, 06 Sep 2021 22:52:21

    Food for thought:

    This centralist tendency of capitalistic development is one of the main bases of the future socialist system, because through the highest concentration of production and exchange, the ground is prepared for a socialized economy conducted on a world-wide scale according to a uniform plan. On the other hand, only through consolidating and centralizing both the state power and the working class as a militant force does it eventually become possible for the proletariat to grasp the state power in order to introduce the dictatorship of the proletariat, a socialist revolution.

    Consequently, the proper political framework in which the modern class struggle of the proletariat operates and can conquer is the big capitalistic state. Usually, in the socialist ranks, especially of the utopian trend, attention is paid only to the economic aspect of capitalistic development, and its categories – industry, exploitation, the proletariat, depressions – are regarded as indispensable prerequisites for socialism. In the political sphere, usually only democratic state institutions, parliamentarianism, and various “freedoms” are regarded as indispensable conditions of this movement. However, it is often overlooked that the modern big state is also an indispensable prerequisite for the development of the modern class struggle and a guarantee of the victory of socialism. The historical mission of the proletariat is not ”socialism” applicable on every inch of ground separately, not dictatorship, but world revolution, whose point of departure is big-state development.

    Therefore, the modern socialist movement, legitimate child of capitalist development, possesses the same eminently centralist characteristic as the bourgeois society and state. Consequently, Social Democracy is, in all countries, a determined opponent of particularism as well as of federalism. In Germany, Bavarian or Prussian particularism, i.e., a tendency to preserve Bavaria’s or Prussia’s political distinctiveness, their independence from the Reich in one respect or another, is always a screen for gentry or petit bourgeois reaction. German Social Democracy also combats, with full energies, the efforts, for instance, of South German particularists to preserve a separate railroad policy in Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg; it also energetically combats particularism in the conquered provinces of Alsace-Lorraine, where the petite bourgeoisie tries to separate itself, by its French nationalism, from political and spiritual community with the entire German Reich. Social Democracy in Germany is also a decided opponent of those survivals of the federal relationship among the German states inside the Reich which have still been preserved. The general trend of capitalist development tends not only toward the political union of the separate provinces within each state, but also toward the abolition of any state federations and the welding of loose state combinations into homogeneous, uniform states; or, wherever this is impossible, to their complete break-up.

    And the final sentence from the link if TLDR:

    The idea of federation, by its nature and historical substance reactionary, is today a pseudo-revolutionary sign of petit bourgeois nationalism, which constitutes a reaction against the united revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat in the entire Empire.

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1909/national-question/ch03.htm

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Tue, 07 Sep 2021 07:31:21

    In reply to Liberius.

    Very interesting quotes, thanks Liberius. FWIW and in no sense contradicting what she writes – indeed I think she puts her finger on a number of key issues, to me the problem with socialist federations etc is almost secondary to their merits or not, it’s how one reaches the point where they can become one amongst many options. If we were at the point of socialist federations being a tangible reality we likely would have moved past them as a position to global communism/anarcho-communism/post-scarcity.

    Or to put it another way, they’re not an answer to all the questions that are posed by the issues faced in the here and now, rather they’re one of a number of options that might be chosen if we solved those problems.

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  • By: pettyburgess Tue, 07 Sep 2021 11:12:01

    In reply to Liberius.

    It’s quite unusual to see the old Militant federation line implicitly criticised for giving too much ground to Irish particularism or Irish nationalism. That’s the logic of Luxemburg’s argument if applied in this context, that a socialist future depends on a strong, centralised British state without independence or semi independence for oppressed nationalities.

    A chapter of Lenin’s pamphlet on the right of nations to self determination criticised Luxemburg on exactly this issue, the consequences of this view of the national question if applied to Ireland (“The Utopian Karl Marx and the Practical Rosa Luxemburg”).

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  • By: EWI Tue, 07 Sep 2021 11:17:57

    In reply to pettyburgess.

    that a socialist future depends on a strong, centralised British state without independence or semi independence for oppressed nationalities.

    Funny how so much of this, i.e. coming from English or Russian ‘comrades’, just happens to neatly align with their respective nationalisms.

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  • By: EWI Tue, 07 Sep 2021 11:22:39

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    If we were at the point of socialist federations being a tangible reality we likely would have moved past them as a position to global communism/anarcho-communism/post-scarcity.

    We’ve definitely receded from the desired sci-fi utopia in the past twenty-five years, not least with the victory of the neolibs.

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  • By: roddy Tue, 07 Sep 2021 11:25:26

    In reply to EWI.

    This federation would have to be founded as a result of free and fair elections.Problem is a future electorate could reject socialism,install a right wing British government which would reverse all previous gains but opt to keep the “federation” with a subugated Ireland therein.

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  • By: pettyburgess Tue, 07 Sep 2021 11:47:01

    In reply to EWI.

    Yes, that was one of the points that particularly exercised Lenin in these debates, the propensity of socialists in great powers to discover forms of “internationalism” that paralleled the nationalisms of their own state.

    Luxemburg and her SKDPiL seem to have particularly aggravated him because they were Polish socialists opposed to Polish self-determination rather than Russian or German chauvinists. They were doubly annoying because not only were they wrong, they gave licence to Russians and Germans to be wrong.

    A weird and understudied party, by the way. It was the political background of quite a number of significant figures in both Russian and German socialist history but was relatively marginal in Poland.

    While Luxemburg is often counterposed to Lenin on questions of party organisation as a more libertarian alternative, based on various polemics she produced, the actual history of the SKDPiL does not at all back that up. It was a much more autocratic organisation than the Bolsheviks.

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  • By: pettyburgess Tue, 07 Sep 2021 12:12:31

    In reply to banjoagbeanjoe.

    Militant Left call for “a Socialist Ireland, without coercion, in a free and voluntary federation with a socialist Scotland, a socialist England, a socialist Wales and a socialist Europe”

    The Socialist Party’s current formulation is something similar. Neither say Britain any more because they support Scottish independence in the same federal context.

    There are small differences of emphasis. Both are actually a bit less nationalist than Militant was when this pamphlet was produced. Militant were still presenting their approach as the way to achieve a united Ireland back in 1986. Neither group argues in that way today and both focus much more on the right of Protestants not to be “coerced”.

    It’s generally a weird pamphlet. The Lenin material doesn’t really fit with the Militant material. The short Trotsky piece wasn’t in keeping with his later views and has a real air of someone waffling on the basis of a superficial knowledge and some general principles.

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  • By: Liberius Tue, 07 Sep 2021 13:59:38

    In reply to pettyburgess.

    That’s the logic of Luxemburg’s argument if applied in this context, that a socialist future depends on a strong, centralised British state without independence or semi independence for oppressed nationalities.

    I’ve made a point here before many moons ago that I don’t think it was beneficial to the working class, particularly here in Ireland, for fissures to be opened up on both a North-South and East-West axis, so yes in the context of the early-to-mid 20th century I think it would have been the correct view to see a socialist future here as being more likely to emerge out of a centralist United Kingdom as from atomised nation-states. In the context of the 21st century I’m of the view, looking at the last decade, that centralisation of the EU is now inevitable, it might have lumps and bumps but it is the direction European capital is moving in. Ultimately to me that means that a centralist Europe has now replaced the United Kingdom as the most plausible vehicle of achieving sustainable non-autarkic socialism in Ireland, certainly much more so than a nation-state. Whether archipelagic federalism has a place in the long-term future though is less clear, I think it might be a wholly redundant concept at this stage.

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