“What The Proclamation Means To Me”
By Alan Woods (Author and Political Activist)
The Easter Rising of 1916 marked a major turning point in European history. At a time when Europe was plunged into a bloody dance of death, when the voice of the working class was stifled and reaction appeared to be triumphantly in the saddle everywhere, a courageous group of revolutionaries struck a blow for freedom. The significance of these events went far beyond the borders of Ireland. It issued a clarion call to the masses everywhere.
The right to self-determination of the Irish people is an indisputable fact. It has been expressed in struggle over three hundred years. But it is impossible to understand the national liberation struggle without analysing its class content. In their writings we discover that Connolly, Lenin and Trotsky adopted the same attitude towards the national bourgeoisie. As early as the 18th century, the great Irish revolutionary democrat Wolfe Tone stated that Ireland could only be freed by the "men of no property". He wrote: "Our freedom must be had at all hazards. If the men of property will not help us they must fall; we will free ourselves with the aid of that large and respectable class of the community - the men of no property".
The history of the struggle for Irish freedom is characterised on the one hand by acts of incredible bravery, like the Easter Rising, on the other side by repeated acts of treachery, cowardice and betrayal on the part of the Irish bourgeoisie and its middle class agents. In the words of Connolly: "The working men fought, the capitalists sold out, the lawyers bluffed" (Labour in Irish History, p. 52). These words sum up two hundred years of Irish history down to the present day.
Even in 1916, the working class revolutionaries were the only consistently revolutionary force. The middle class nationalists played a negative role. At the last minute the insurrection was betrayed by the vacillation of the middle class leaders, as they have betrayed many times in Irish history and in the history of other countries. The leaders of the Irish Volunteers were split. Eoin MacNeill countermanded orders for "mobilisation" and for "manoeuvres" and in the confusion only part of the Volunteers, joined with the Irish Citizens Army in the insurrection.
What does the Proclamation say? It states, among
But if these words are to mean anything, they must mean that the Irish Republic should be a Workers’ Republic, a republic in which the land, the banks and the basic industries should be owned and democratically controlled by the people of Ireland – that is, by the working class and poor farmers.
Unless the fight for self-determination is
linked to the fight for workers’ power, it will inevitably end in defeat,
fraud and betrayal. That is what Connolly meant when he said:
How prophetic were these words! And how accurately they describe everything that happened in Ireland after 1916!
The role of Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army has been systematically downplayed by bourgeois historians. Yet it was absolutely central to the uprising. Connolly was not fighting for a bourgeois republic but for an Irish Workers’ Republic. He failed, but for that very reason the struggle for Irish freedom could not succeed.
Instead of the inspiring picture painted by the Proclamation we had the abortion of the Free State – the unholy offspring of the Irish bourgeoisie and British imperialism. Instead of a genuinely free and independent 32 county Republic we had the division of the living body of Ireland, the disastrous consequences of which we are still living with today.
At the present time Ireland stands once more at the crossroads, and with it the Republican movement. The strategy of so-called "armed struggle" that was pursued for three decades and for which a terrible price was paid, lies in ruins. The leadership of Provisional Sinn Fein has reached a deal with British imperialism - a deal in which the goal of a 32 county Republic does not feature. In reality the Good Friday Agreement and the institutions which have flowed from it is a sham and a deception.
Almost a century later, the aims of the 1916 Rising and the Proclamation have not been attained. They will never be attained unless and until we return to the genuine traditions of 1916 – the ideas and programme of James Connolly – the programme of the Workers’ Republic, linked to the struggle for socialism on a world scale.
individual contributions please click on the names below:
Eugene McCartan (General Secretary
Communist Party of Ireland / Páirtí Cumannach na hÉireann)
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