Question about Ireland

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at
Thu Nov 2 22:20:11 MST 2000

Philip Ferguson wrote:

> Louis writes:
> >
> >I ask you, how can you write about England's success in this period without
> >writing about Ireland's failure? Aw, don't tell me. I think I know. It is
> >called racism.
> Liz Curtis' book is fine, but it's also useful to look at Marx and Engels'
> book on Ireland ('Marx and Engels on Ireland and the Irish Question'),
> which gathers together most of their writing on the subject.  Engels
> actually began to write a book on Ireland, learning Gaelic and making
> several trips to Ireland to gather primary material.  He argued that
> England had not only stunted the development of Ireland, but thrown it back
> several centuries.
> Lenin later made the point that a great deal of England's success was
> bought at the expense of Ireland.
> Ireland was methodically plundered for centuries even before the 1600s,
> when James I's armies forced the 'Flight of the Earls' from Ulster and
> crushed the strongest area of Irish resistance.  The job was finished off a
> generation later by Cromwell with mass slaughter.
> Ireland was left defeated, plundered and demoralised.
> Moreover, all kinds of laws were placed in the way of Irish economic
> development.  For instance, the Irish were refused the right to export
> fattened livestock, cloth and linen and so on to Britain, denied the right
> to trade with Europe and the Americas and so on.  Industry after industry
> in Ireland was ruined deliberately in the 1600s and 1700s.
> Eventually, in the 1800s the island was depopulated by the Famine of the
> 1840s and the Encumbered Estates Act (1849), which Marx argued was even
> more effective than the Famine in driving people off the land.  Huge tracts
> of tillage were converted to pasture to provide cheap protein for the
> burgeoning industrial working class in Britain, thus cheapening the cost of
> labour-power and boosting profits in Britain.
> The English ruling class turned the Famine to great advantage, and there
> are very interesting statements on the famine by people like Malthus,
> Nassau Senior and other political economists, who saw it as a great
> blessing and opportunity for British capitalism.
> T.A. Jackson's 'Ireland Her Own' is probably still the classic work to
> consult on the history of Ireland during these centuries.
> The school of British Marxist historians associated with the CPBG -
> Hobsbawm, E.P. Thompson, Christopher Hill etc - certainly wrote some great
> stuff, but they always had a massive blind spot when it came to colonialism
> and imperialism, especially British rule in Ireland.  The NLR also
> reflected this.  When you consider that a revolutionary struggle was
> ongoing in Ireland from about 1968-1994, the number of articles in NLR on
> Ireland during that whole period could be counted on the fingers of one
> hand, and probably still leave a few digits free.
> This is an extraordinary blindspot.  I mean, can anyone imagine American
> Marxist intellectuals simply ignoring the Vietnam War when it was raging
> and producing journals that said nothing about the war?
> Philip Ferguson

Philip, I totally concur. Has this insensitivity to question of colonialism also
got to do with the fact that Brenner and Hobsbaw's works are very much rooted in
the philosophical tradition of British empiricism?



Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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