Just Read… Rebels: Voices from the Easter Rising

Fearghal McGarry [2012]

Rebels: Voices from the Easter Rising 

ISBN  978-0141041278


Contemporary accounts are the first partial draft but often not the most accurate account of history, here, written by participants, structured by a historian, the compilation of quotes provides a narrative and the conveys the flavour of the Easter Rising. From the witnesses’ recollections of their schooling and other childhood influences to their accounts of what happened at Easter 1916, Rebels tells of this seismic and much-debated insurrection. The testimonies gathered from participants by the Irish Bureau of Military History in 1947 provides a real feel for the ordinary person in history, and captures the detail often absence in the general histories. To recall just two incidents: Seamus Pounch stationed at the Jacob’s biscuit factory, in the first few quiet days before the arrival of British army reinforcements in Dublin, said:

“During a lull in the fight in Jacob’s we held a miniature ceilidh – Volunteers and Fianna, Cumann na mBan, Clan na Gael Girl Scouts… a real welcome break in the serious business we had in hand.”

A testimony to the rank-and-file spirit, and indicative of the conglomeration of forces – not solely a Sinn Fein rebellion – involved in the struggle for Irish national freedom. Not quite a carnival but a celebration, not the mystic “blood sacrifice” so often stressed, but a survivor’s account and insight in an incident that contributes to the human story and commitments that makes history. In another contribution from Liam Tannam, based at the GPO, not a story about the great James Connolly of the Irish Citizen Army, but a nameless Finn. He, and a Swede appeared at the GPO to join the fight.

“The Finn[ish] volunteer was no catholic. He had no English but before he left he was saying the rosary in Irish.”

This provoked a smile and thoughts of Lenin talking in defence of 1916 with references to no pure rebellions, and Mao’s reference to revolution not being a dinner party. The range of forces that were involved in the action, and those who opposed it from within, is clear in the contributions in the book quoting Bulmer Hobson, Irish Republican Brotherhood and general secretary of the Irish Volunteers in Dublin. Among “the rebels” the warmth and affection that Tom Clark, one of the signatories to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, engendered in many activists had not previously registered with my own preference for James Connolly.

We know the insurrection was not popularly acclaimed, jeered and booed by the Dublin mob at the time. The rebels were branded as criminals, traitors, fanatics, or, at best, dangerously misguided fools in the first drafts of history   Dublin 1916.  However, the suppression of the rebellion and executions, military occupation with twenty thousand troops in the Dublin city centre alone and nightly curfews that followed meant that the Rising’s legacy would transform Ireland forever. It was the opening shots of the protracted modern Irish revolutionary struggle .

In his more conventional historical narrative, the Rising [Oxford University Press 2010] McGarry points out that within the nationalist tradition, republicanism was moved central stage, and many revolutionary-minded activists could raise “the accusation that they had failed to live up to the ideals of the Proclamation “ so central had those events of Easter 1916 become to the identity and legitimacy of the extensive rebel tradition in Ireland. In their own words are the men and women who played a part in that writing of history.


 

Irish Revolutionary Tradition in Cork Workers Club’s Publications (Part 2 )

Small press publications have traditionally been the vehicle for radical political argument and providing an alternative record from the dominant narrative that makes up the general fare of public and academic publishing. Throughout the 1970s, the Cork Workers’ Club were industrious in publishing a series of historical reprints of classic texts of Irish socialist republicanism, including James Connolly. There was eventually twenty pamphlets in the series that reflected an orthodox Marxist analysis of Ireland’s radical tradition. These long out of print pamphlets had an international distribution.  

The Cork Workers Club emerged from the Cork Communist Organisation. The latter had itself been formed in 1972 in reaction to the Irish Communist Organisation’s shift from a Republican standpoint to a ’two nations’ and functionally pro-Unionist one. Through a number of organisational developments the Cork Workers’ Club, operated out of the same premises in St Nicholas Church Lane in south Cork that the republican Saor Éire had used since 1968 as its headquarters. The premises acted as a meeting place, bookshop and printing house.

Memories of CWC posted by Fintan Lane on the Irish blogsite The Cedar Lounge Revolution in 2007 recalls:

The ‘Cork Communist Organisation’ was made up largely, I believe, of the Saor Eire people (publishers of ‘People’s Voice’ etc.), who had earlier merged with the ICO. Their politics was a mixture of Marxist-Leninism (Maoism in this instance) and republicanism. My father – Jim Lane – was involved….

The CCO later morphed into the Cork Workers Club, which survived into the late 1970s as a real group and, afterwards, as a sort of publishing house. The bookshop in Nicholas Church Place remained open until the early 1980s, when it was actually an IRSP bookshop/office. It was a centre for the anti-H-Block campaign during the hunger strikes and was later used by the Release Nicky Kelly Campaign. In its early years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, public meetings were held upstairs at times. I remember once seeing a poster advertising an appearance there by Eamon McCann.

I ‘staffed’ the bookshop for a while in the early 1980s, when it was open only on Saturday and some week nights. There were some regular customers, but, as time moved on, few people slinked in besides the affiliated. Its heyday really was at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s when it was the place to go in Cork to get left-wing and republican literature. It was a genuine backstreet bookshop and when other places opened, such as the bookshop in the Quay Co-op in the early 1980s, it effectively no longer had much of a purpose. It was too far off the beaten track. A strange place, in some ways. Internet shopping would have wiped it out, had it survived that long, because it primarily dealt in political material that mainstream shops wouldn’t sell.

Source: Fintan Lane – October 30, 2007

— February 2018

THE CORK WORKERS’ CLUB ~ HISTORICAL REPRINTS

Reprints of pamphlets, booklets and newspaper articles of historical value to the study of the Socialist Movement in Ireland

 No.1   James Connolly and Irish freedom. A Marxist analysis G.Schuller

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/James-Connolly-and-Irish-Freedom-G-Schuller-Cork-Workers-Club-1974.pdf

No.2  British Imperialism in Ireland  by  Eleanor Burns

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/British-Imperialism-in-Ireland-A-Marxist-Historical-Analysis-Elinor-Burns-Cork-Workers-1974.pdf

No.3  Marx, Engels and Lenin on the Irish Revolution

http://collections.mun.ca/PDFs/radical/MarxEngelsAndLeninOnTheIrishRevolution.pdf

No.4    The Irish Republican Congress by George Gilmore

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Irish-Republican-Congress-George-Gilmore-Historical-Reprints-No-4-Cork-Workers-Club-1974.pdf

 No.5    The James Connolly Songbook (1972)

No. 6   Workshop Talks  by  James Connolly                              

No.7   The Irish Question (1894)  by  John Leslie

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Irish-Question-John-Leslie-Cork-Workers-Club-1974.pdf                           

No.8 The Historical Basis of Socialism in Ireland  by Thomas Brady

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Irish-Question-John-Leslie-Cork-Workers-Club-1974.pdf

No.9   The Connolly-Walker Controversy on Socialist Unity in Ireland

No.10 The Story of Irish Labour  by J.M.MacDonnell

Read Here cwc 10 

No.11 Ireland Upon The Dissecting Table – James Connolly on Ulster &             Partition.

No.12 Convict No. 50945: Jim Larkin, Irish Labour Leader

No.13 Irish Labour and its International Relations in the era of the 2nd             International and the Bolshevik Revolution.

No.14 Freedom’s Road for Irish Workers (1917)

No.15 The Connolly-DeLeon Controversy:On Wages, Marriage and the Church (1904)http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1904/condel/index.htm

No.16   The Irish Crisis, 1921 – The C.P.G.B. stand by William Paul

Read Here cwc 16

No.17  The Struggle of the Unemployed in Belfast October 1932

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Struggle-of-the-Unemployed-in-Belfast-October-1932-by-Tom-Bell.pdf

No.18   The Irish Free State and British Imperialism  by “Gerhard”

Read Here cwc 18

 No.19   Sinn Fein and Socialism: James Connolly, “Charles Russell”,  Selma Sigerson

No.20   The Irish Case for Communism: Sean Murray, Jim Larkin Jun., Seamus MacKee & the C.P.I.

 

 

50. John MacLean

Maclean

John Maclean, Scottish Marxist, one of the leaders of the ‘Red Clydeside’ era died on 30 November 1923 in Glasgow at the age of 44 .His funeral was attended by thousands of his fellow Glaswegians and at the time, was the biggest funeral ever seen in the city. Even today John Maclean is remembered by a Commemoration in November with a march and graveside oration at Eastwood Cemetery.

Maclean’s daughter, Nan Milton, provided a biography on her father and her selected works of Maclean, In the Rapids of Revolution was the first published collection of essays, articles, pamphlets and letters by the revolutionary organiser and educator of Clydeside. The indispensable Marxist Internet Archive have his articles from Justice and Forward, available online https://www.marxists.org/archive/maclean/index.htm

January 2018 saw the publication of Gerard Cairns new book on John MacLean titled: ‘The Red and the Green – a Portrait of John Maclean. The former Secretary of the John Maclean Society has a chapter in the book that highlights Maclean’s links with Irish revolutionaries on Clydeside, and the practical assistance hejohnmacleanbook on saale at Lighthouse, Edinburgh's radical bookshop. gave to the cause of Irish freedom. The author of “The Irish Tragedy: Scotland’s Disgrace”, is known better on the Left than in wider society. There has been a gradual increase in the literature that focuses on John Maclean and his political life but he remains still a controversial icon, partly because of his advocacy of a Scottish Workers Republic and rejection of the then newly formed Communist Party of Great Britain, an issue explored in John MacLean and the CPGB by Bob Pitt, on the Trotskyist left, who political disagreements with Maclean’s conclusions are open and reflective of the British Left’s attitude http://www.whatnextjournal.org.uk/Pages/Pamph/Maclean.html

That Maclean is published by others who politically oppose him, like the SWP’s 1998 study by Dave Berry, reflects the problem of how to incorporate an obvious revolutionary internationalist who stands for Scottish Republicanism in an essentially unionist Left. There was renewed interest in the importance of Maclean in the context of the debate about Scottish independence that saw the image of MacLean as a meme! While others equally ideologically hostile strangely try to claim him as their own [see Terry Brotherstone’s introduction to the WRP’s  Accuser of Capitalism published in 1986.]

Accuser 1918 cover

Then [as today] radical socialists operate on a British stage to an agenda set largely in response to the British state centred on London. The perspective offered by Maclean did not gel with that metropolitan-influenced analysis. As Graham Bain states Historians on the whole have been unkind about John MacLean.” Drawing upon his own mythologies, MacLean argued for an anti-war class patriotism, to refuse to fight each other over the interests of Europe’s capitalist classes. The call to break up the British state through Scottish Independence was “All Hail the Scottish Workers Republic” and not the patrician bourgeois call of ‘Scotland Free’.

All hail MayDay 1923

“Scotland must again have independence, but not to be ruled over by traitor chiefs and politicians. The communism of the clans must be re-established on a modern basis. (Bolshevism, to put it roughly, is but the modern expression of the communism of the mir.) Scotland must therefore work itself into a communism embracing the whole country as a unit. The country must have but one clan, as it were – a united people working in co-operation and co-operatively, using the wealth that is created.”

There are a minority of activists who will regard John Maclean as a legacy for today. His dedication and determination alone means he should not slumber in some ill-deserved obscurity. His expression and contemporary analysis maybe dated, his Marxist optimism and appeal to the working class endure:

1918 in the dock

MacLean turning to friends in the court shouted, "Keep it going, boys; keep it going".

Gerard Cairns (2018) ‘The Red and the Green – a Portrait of John Maclean. Connolly Books £6.99

Mail order: http://www.calton-books.co.uk/books/the-red-and-the-green-a-portrait-of-john-maclean/


Of Interest

Accuser of Capitalism. John MacLean’s speech from the dock, May 9th 1918. New Park Publications 1986

Bain, Graham (nd) John MacLean, His Life and Work 1919-1923. John MacLean Society

McHugh J. and Ripley, B.J.,   John Maclean, the Scottish Workers’ Republican Party and Scottish Nationalism Scottish Labour History Society Journal, No.18, 1983.

MacLean, John (1973) The War After The War Socialist Reproduction.

MacLean’s pamphlet ‘The War After the War’ has been republished by the Bristol Radical History Group.

Milton, Nan (ed) (1978) In the Rapids of Revolution. Allison & Busby

Milton, Nan (1979) John Maclean. Pluto Press

Sherry, Dave (1998) John Maclean. Socialist Workers Party

John Maclean – “The Most dangerous man in Britain” –   http://democracyandclasstruggle.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/john-maclean-most-dangerous-man-in.html   [July 1, 2014]

Sean Ledwith, The Scottish Lenin: the life and legacy of John Maclean http://www.counterfire.org/revolutionary/17009-the-scottish-lenin-the-life-and-legacy-of-john-maclean [February 21, 2014]

John Maclean’s Pollokshaws http://www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/people/johnmaclean.php


Legacy ayecomrade