Ireland -Reply

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Fri Mar 31 12:12:25 MST 1995


Actually, I think I may spend the next few months trying to figure out
this whole Irish question. I think I'm going to start with Liz Curtis's
new book "The Cause of Ireland". She collaborated with Ralston on the
piece he wrote that I just circulated to the list.

Ireland really poses a number of interesting questions for those of a
Marxist bent:

1. Were the Irish a tribe? I've heard that the English pursued what
amounted to a genocidal attack on communal lands owned by Irish clans
that paralleled in many ways the genocide against the American Indian.

2. What was the character of Cromwell's war on the Irish nation? My
impression of Cromwell is pretty positive overall, not as radical as the
levellers but still a revolutionary. What does this tell us about the
nature of the bourgeois revolution in England?

3. What caused the famine? At lunch today while on my perigrinations
through the Columbia Libraries (god, do I envy you bastards who do this
for a living...but on the other hand I don't have to kowtow to any
department chairs), I came across one supposedly definitive text on the
famine which says that it was not the result of deliberate British
policy, but was exacerbated by poorly thought out relief policies
(seemed like liberal bullshit).

4. What explains the continuing underdevelopment of Ireland? Even after
independence, Ireland remained mired in poverty and many are forced into
immigration. Is Ireland a rather exceptional economic phenomenon: a
neocolonial capitalist nation?

5. What do we make of the IRA? No more than reactionary nationalists with
blanqui politics? Was the IRA necessary? Could the civil rights movement led by
Bernadette Devlin have been the model for a real mass movement? What
explains the tendency for "substitutionism" in Irish revolutionary politics?

6. Why do Irish immigrants in the United States form such a reactionary
bloc? On the NY Pacifica radio station, I once heard Leo Cawley, a
Marxist economist of Irish descent discuss this phenomenon on St.
Patrick's Day some few years ago. It was fascinating, a theme worthy of
Brecht. (Cawley died several years ago from bone cancer brought on by
exposure to agent orange while he was serving in the Marine Corps in
Vietnam. What a tragic loss.)

I'll have more to say on these topics in future posts.


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