[Marxism] Ireland: Civil war, counter-revolution and the consolidation of the Free State

Philip Ferguson philipferguson8 at gmail.com
Wed Nov 13 01:57:01 MST 2019

In the previous chapter we saw how the pan-nationalist front for national
independence came apart at the end of 1921.  The southern nationalist
bourgeoisie, the old Unionist elite, the Catholic Church hierarchy and
sections of the middle class who aspired to become capitalists supported
the Treaty because it gave them what they wanted – an Irish state over
which they had a substantial degree of control.   (In the case of a section
of the old Unionist elite,  Although it was less than what they hoped for –
many of them would have preferred not to have partition – it was a far
better option than continued struggle with Britain.  Prolonged struggle
tended to undermine the old order and throw into question even new
nationalist sources of authority when these were used to uphold the old
order – such as republican courts and police which sided with Unionist
landowners against pro-republican small farmers and agricultural
labourers.  Workers had mobilised around the political issue of
independence and undertaken increasingly militant struggles around economic
issues.  While workers’ struggles around these latter issues tended to be
localised and spontaneous, the widespread seizures of workplaces
nevertheless by their very nature raised, in at least an embryonic form,
the question of what a truly free Ireland might look like.  In particular,
they raised the issue of which class or classes would rule the new Ireland
which was emerging during the war for independence.

In June 1922 the Third International, which had maintained a great deal of
interest in Ireland and which had been kept informed of events by both
British and Irish revolutionaries – amongst them James Connolly’s young
son, Roddy – issued a statement declaring:  “After all the efforts to
maintain its domination by force of arms had been frustrated by the heroic,
self-sacrificing defence of the Irish people, it was obliged to come to an
understanding with the Irish bourgeoisie.  For the semblance of an
independent Irish Free State the representatives of the Irish capitalists –
Collins, Griffith and co – sacrificed the fruits of a long and successful
struggle, and received in return as a Judas reward, the right to exploit
the Irish workers together with the British bourgeoisie.”[1]

It is my contention that this is a fundamentally correct statement of what
happened in Ireland with the adoption of the Treaty and the establishment
of the Free State. . .

full at:


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