As we enter the weekend, in the Irish Republic, celebrations begin to commemorate the 1916 Dublin Uprising, adding even more to the romantic myth of the futile sacrifice of working class lives.
Nationalism separates. It does not integrate. Nationalism is a tool to divide and rule. Throughout modern history and across the world, nationalism has reared its ugly head again and again. Many on the left will argue that Irish nationalism has been somehow progressive. As socialists, we say that this is a dangerous poison that is being spread by the left.
When the British withdrew from the greater part of Ireland, henceforth to be called the Irish Free State, the IRA split on the terms of the settlement with Britain, and a bloody civil war ensued. Under these warring conditions administrative structures had to be developed. The war with Britain was for faith and motherland; those who were killing one another in an internecine war over the nature of Mother Ireland were at least united in faith and there was no discernable concern about the Catholic Church becoming almost wholly responsible for the general ‘education’ of the young, including places of care and security like orphanages and juvenile penal institutions. The approximately 27 percent of the population of Ireland who were not Catholics and might have acted as a counterweight to the arrogant authoritarianism of the Catholic bishops were now largely concentrated in Northern Ireland. Only some 9 percent of the population of the Free State was non-Catholic, mainly Protestant. These latter had been identified with the enemy during the three years of fierce guerrilla war that preceded the new constitutional arrangements and they were not anxious to be involved in controversy, especially controversy pertaining to the power of the church. In 1926 the republican rebels who had been defeated in the civil war reformed politically under the aegis of Fianna Fail and achieved control of government in 1932. The new Taoiseach (Prime Minister) was Eamon De Valera, the main architect of the civil war; an austere, well-informed Catholic. In 1937 his government changed the name of the state to Eire and introduced a new constitution in which was mentioned the favoured place of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Eamon De Valera had more republicans hanged than the Ulster Unionists.
Does Irish 'heritage' do anything to help us to overcome our shared working class heritage of poverty, insecurity and social degradation – the real actual factual and painful heritage that is common to all workers in every country of the world? The Irish dramatist, Sean O'Casey, who was one-time secretary to the Irish Citizen’s Army saw Connolly as renouncing the cause of the international working class for an aspiring native capitalism.
Before man or woman can be anything, Catholic, Protestant, English, Irish, black or white, freeman or slave, he or she must be LIVING—not dead. In order to live one needs food, clothing, shelter and in order to live in freedom, a person needs free and equal access to these things. Will a rifle create the conditions of abundance for freedom? Workers, North and South, because they mistakenly associated their interests with the fortunes of their masters, line up behind the capitalists in their respective areas. The Southern capitalists rallied the people there behind them by appeals to patriotism and the notion that if they had their own government they would be free. The Northern gentlemen achieved their end by exploiting historical fictions and blatantly promoting religious bigotry.
National boundaries may be altered—may even disappear—but such re-arrangements of things geographical can in no way abolish, or even lessen, the poverty of the many. The goal of the socialist movement is to establish a real world community without frontiers where all states as they currently exist will be destroyed. In a socialist society communities, towns and cities will have the opportunity to thrive – and people will no doubt feel an attachment to places that are real and tangible. The solution will not be found by struggling for Irish independence (whether of the 26- or 32-County variety), but by striving for a world socialist co-operative commonwealth.