Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Easter Rising - A View From Cork

Well done to the various comrades for a range of good articles about the Easter Rising in this month’s Socialist Standard.

For a socialist living in Ireland it’s good to read an alternative perspective on this matter and to have some of the well-known shibboleths that surround it debunked (not for the first time of course!). As I write in the week prior to Easter, things are gearing up here for the major commemorations scheduled for Easter Sunday and Easter Monday; 27th and 28th March. As the articles in the Standard suggests, in spite of all the rhetoric of the state and media, there really is very little tangible to see in the day to day lives of the citizens of the Republic of Ireland that is connected to the Rising apart from the fact that most major railway stations in Irish cities are named after some of the leading participants.

It’s interesting to compare this centenary celebration with the commemoration that occurred in 1966 on the half centenary. The centre-piece on that occasion was a traditional old style military parade of the Irish Army down O'Connell Street whilst being reviewed by De Valera and other elderly survivors of the Rising. Now it’s much more ‘inclusive’ with family events, educational lectures, historical re-enactments, street festivals, etc. Of course the underlying nationalist message is still present though in a more muted form with the Proclamation being read out in all school playgrounds under the Tricolour.

The correct attitude to adopt to the Rising has always been somewhat problematical for Irish governments. While Irish independence is nominally taken to have begun with the rebellion, in fact the origins of the state really date from the unplanned and erratic series of events that occurred from the Conscription crisis of 1918 to the end of the Civil War in 1923. The undemocratic and vanguardist nature of the military operation of Easter 1916 has unpalatable parallels with the more recent campaign of the Provisional IRA. Furthermore the participation of James Connolly in the Rising has always given it left-wing appeal even though he was a clear minority in terms of his political outlook compared to the other leaders. A well-known phrase from the Proclamation ‘cherishing all the children of the nation equally’ has been used to justify the claim that it was a progressive event even though that wording was placed there more for grandiose political purposes rather than a call to any specific programme of action.

What’s the view from today? You can debate over and back whether the 26 counties that eventually went on to form the Republic of Ireland would have been better or worse off if they had remained as part of the UK. To an extent it’s similar to the current debate in the UK about its own membership of the larger European political union. The delineation of national boundaries within a system of world capitalism is just a reflection of the nationalist consciousness that currently prevails amongst the people of this planet.

Comrade KC of Cork

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