April 24 marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland, an armed uprising of the Irish people to win their independence by ending British colonial rule so as to be free to decide their own destiny. The 1916 Rising was the first major revolt against British rule in Ireland since the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798. The rebellion lasted until April 29 when it was brutally crushed by the forces of the British Empire, after thousands of reinforcements were brought in from England and other parts of Ireland. It became the first stage in a war of independence that resulted in the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922 and, ultimately, the formal declaration of an Irish Republic in 1949. Britain still maintain a military presence in the north of Ireland, even if troops have been withdrawn from the streets for some years now – mainly to free them for other criminal interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The Easter Rising stands second to none in the pages of the heroic history of the Irish people, and centenary events are being marked throughout 2016 in Ireland and around the world. The number and variety of commemorative events taking place on the Easter weekend in Ireland was at a record as the 26 County state attempted to make up for the years when it ignored the 1916 anniversary. For your information we present a recent article on the Irish Rising from Workers’ Weekly, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), published on March 28.
The heroic Easter Rising, centred on Dublin, though crushed barbarically by British imperialist troops within weeks, even days, was a turning point in the history of the nation. It led directly to the stunning victory of pro-independence candidates in the General Election of 1918 and the establishment of Dail Eireann in 1919, albeit also brutally suppressed by the British; to the War of Independence 1919-21; to the founding of the Free State in 1922; and eventually to the establishment of the Republic of Ireland in 1949. This assertion of national sovereignty, this nation-building project, whatever the tortuous and often appalling twists and turns, continues to this very day.
As Lenin later stated, the Citizens Army, one of the main components of the Rising, was the first workers’ Red Army, and the pity was that the Easter Rising occurred before the revolutionary movement in Europe had reached full maturity. Nonetheless, the Irish revolutionary forces were to be an inspiration and example for revolutionary fighters throughout the world for the remainder of the 20th century, as were to be their mirror image in Ulster the model for counter-revolution, reaction and foreign manipulation.
British media in recent days have made much of what they characterise as the “shambolic” nature of the Rising (as they did at the time, demonstrating the racism of the British does not depend on the colour of skin of the oppressed) and that it was only the “mistake” of the British in putting down the Rising so brutally and with such vicious retribution that led to the Rising having any significance. But when was a revolution of an oppressed people a tidy affair? And was not the barbarity of British imperialism its standard reaction to any move for colonial freedom throughout its Empire? In fact was it not this very tyranny that made armed uprising inevitable?
Other media accounts have asked “why could they not have just waited?”, suggesting that Home Rule was inevitable once the First World War was over. But did India, who like Ireland provided tens of thousands of its brave sons for the slaughter on the Western Front, get Home Rule when the war ended? Rather its people struggled for another 30 years before independence was achieved and then only in the wake of one of the most callous and dastardly imperialist crimes of the century, the Partition of India which, as with the equally enforced Partition of Ireland, still bears its bitter and unresolved legacy to this day.
With the Downing Street Declaration of 1993, the then Prime Minister John Major stated that Britain had no territorial interest or claim in what he called “the island of Ireland.” If so, why more than 20 years later, does Britain maintain its hold on part of the island? Why is there a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? Why does Britain maintain a military presence in the north of Ireland, even if troops have been withdrawn from the streets for some years now – admittedly mainly so as to free them for other criminal interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere. Notwithstanding the sincere efforts being made by various forces in Ireland to achieve progress through the Good Friday Accord and the Peace Agreement, why does the British state and its government continue to interfere in Irish affairs and block progress?
The full liberation of Ireland, and progress in its nation-building project, will be the act of the Irish people themselves. In this they have the support of millions throughout the world, especially in the Americas and Caribbean, and across Europe, especially in England, Scotland and Wales, not least because of the diaspora, working people proud of their Irish heritage, even centuries after emigration, showing their support directly and in their struggles for the same aims. The cause of the Irish people, a people inspired anew by the Easter Rising, and loved throughout the world for their indomitable fighting spirit, their humour, their great tradition of arts and culture, their joy of living and the craic, will surely prevail!
Hail the Easter Rising!
Victory to the Struggles of the Irish People!
Our demands most moderate are – We only want the earth!
From James Connolly’s Message to the Field General Court Martial, held at Dublin Castle, on May 9, 1916:
Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997