Tag Archives: independence

James Connolly and the Uprising of 1916

By Jim Hargreaves

One hundred years ago the Irish Citizen Army was founded in response to the brutality of strikebreaking in Ireland, which was mainly done by the Dublin Metropolitan Police. It’s aim was to defend strikers and workers from the barbaric attacks of the police.

One of the co-founders of the ICA was a man called James Connolly.

20130702-210609.jpg

By 1915, Britain had as much control of Ireland as it did over England. Home rule was suspended until the end of the war, and Connolly’s paper ‘The Workers’ Republic was shut down by the authorities in Dublin castle.

James Connolly was appointed acting General Secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. By now, Connolly had become very militant. He paraded units of the Irish Citizens Army in Dublin, but such displays made those who had left the Irish Volunteers and gone to the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) very anxious, as they were planning to start an uprising. They felt that such displays would attract the attention of the authorities, which would crush the uprising before it even began. In an effort to bring Connolly on board and to tame his more wild displays of militancy, the IRB took him into their confidence. Connolly was told about the planned rebellion for Easter 1916. After this, Connolly took an active part in the preparations and he was appointed Military Commander of the Republican Forces in Dublin, which encompassed the Irish Citizens Army.

When the uprising started on Monday 24th April, James Connolly was one of the seven signatories to the Proclamation. Connolly was in command of the General Post Office during the rebellion – the rebels headquarters. He was severely wounded during the fighting and was arrested once the rebels had surrendered. After the surrender, Connolly stated this:

“Don’t worry. Those of us that signed the proclamation will be shot. But the rest of you will be set free.”

He was court-martialled in a military hospital in Dublin. Charged with treason, there was no doubt as to what the verdict and punishment would be.

At his court martial, Connolly made the following statement:

“We want to break the connection between this country and the British Empire, and to establish an Irish Republic. ”

“We succeeded in proving that Irishmen are ready to die endeavouring to win for Ireland those national rights which the British government has been asking them to die, to win for Belgium. As long as that remains the case, the cause of Irish freedom is safe. I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys, and hundreds of Irish women and girls, were ready to affirm that truth, and to attest it with their lives if need be”

James Connolly was sentenced to death. Some of the employers with whom he had battled in the ‘Great Lock-Out’ of 1913, called on the British government to execute Connolly.

On May 12th,1916, Connolly was shot by firing squad. He had been taken by military ambulance to Kilmainham Prison, carried on a stretcher to a courtyard in the prison, tied to a chair and shot. With the other executed rebels, his body was put into a mass grave with no coffin. All the executions of the rebels angered many Irish people who had shown little support for the rebels during the rebellion. However, it was the circumstances of Connolly’s execution that created the most anger.

Connolly was among the few European members of the Second International who opposed, outright, World War I. This put him at odds with most of the socialist leaders of Europe, most of whom betrayed the working class by condoning an imperialist land-grab which pitted proletarian against proletarian.

20130702-212315.jpg

Anger and Courage • Scottish Green Party

By Karine Polwart

Scottish Green Party

Thursday night. BBC Question Time is on telly. I’m venting a week’s worth of rage on Twitter, while nursing a tumbler of special offer white wine.

A panellist asks: “Do we want to be a self-governing, democratic nation that determines her own destiny?” I shudder. The questioner is UKIP leader, Nigel Farage.

It matters who asks this question, and why. For while self-governance is grand as a principle, what matters are the values, aspirations and concrete policies implied in the “destiny” bit, how the new “we” that political independence would create would do things differently.

Destiny begs questions about what any self-governing nation might look like, whether it’s UKIP’s increasingly (terrifying) popular vision of the UK or my version of Scotland. Would we fund free universal care for the elderly from progressive taxation or leave it to insurance companies? Do we want to spend £250 million from the annual Scottish economy on morally repugnant, illegal weapons of mass destruction; or might we imagine some more transformative use for this cash? Would we prosecute those responsible for the rigging of financial systems that have been mis-sold to us as impartial arbiters of what’s best for us?

The fashion within the broad Yes campaign alliance is to personify cheery well-educated niceness. In order to assuage the genuine fear of escalating hardship under Westminster-style austerity, Yes emphasises that we will be “better off” and achieve “success” and “growth” from our “human and environmental assets”.

This foregrounded Yes focuses on what would be continuous in a transition from devolution to independence: a sound Scottish parliamentary system (I’m reassured by what this has achieved in 14 years), elected by means of proportional representation (my Green vote counts), which determines policy relevant to front-room stuff – schools, hospitals, care for the vulnerable (a degree of distinctive vision thus far, in my opinion).

It’s backed up by Scotland the Brand, an all-in-one package of stability, stoutness and invention, starring entrepreneurs and creative businesses. And while there’s the questionable status of our North Sea oil and gas share, we have a vast reserve of wind, wave and water, coupled with an inventive engineering culture, which might underpin a future world-leading renewables industry.

Heck, there are official statistics about our impressive tax contribution to the UK and our less than average share of national UK debt. Weighty projections regarding Scottish economic resilience are available. And only this past week, the Fiscal Working Group, on behalf of the Scottish Government, suggested an independent Scotland should stick with sterling, reign in its tax and spend ambitions and create “a workable blend of autonomy, cohesion and continuity”.

Yet this proffering of safe, prudential hands has failed to impress the majority of us so far.

The Yes story here is “Dinnae Be Feart”. Scotland won’t be that different post-independence, just a mite more prosperous, and self-determinedly “Scottish”. The Yes Scotland website reassures that “on Day 1, an independent Scotland will look pretty much as it does today”.

Let me declare that this endlessly reiterated sameness scares me. For while my hoped-for Day 1 independent Scotland might look the same as it does now and should utilise, sensibly, existing infrastructure, I’m horrified by a Scottish version of business-as-usual. It’s the opportunity for, and the realistic possibility of, something radically and ethically different to the UK political status quo that gets me ranting at the TV.

Every time I witness Nigel Farage, or a member of our elected Westminster government, on TV, I sense not just that my core values and priorities don’t count at UK level, but that they’re in imminent danger of evisceration. If I thought that Arbroath, Hawick and Ballachulish were filled with Farages and Camerons then, to be honest, I’d stick with things as they are. What would be the point in change?

Without purpose (what’s prosperity for? whose prosperity is it?), we swallow the myth, perfected in the culture of Westminster and the City of London, that more cash in our pockets alone will nudge us off the couch. That, right there, is the core of my growing everyday anger at our UK-wide economic and political system.

What sparks me is the “fairer, greener” bit of the Yes campaign, the possibility of reconfiguring our connection with Scotland as a place in ways that go beyond a new era of profitable industrial exploitation of human or environmental resources. Right now, core values-based thinking is buried in a media mire of legalistic debate that makes all but the most politically hardcore of us want to make a cup of tea during the evening news.

What interests me, is not whether Scotland will be automatically, certainly, admitted to various trans-national alliances. It’s that we appear, as a nation, to place the utmost value on inter-dependence and international community, not just tactically, or in pursuit of trade, but existentially, and as a matter of principle. UKIP’s independence vision doesn’t have the same ring.

We are “better together”, dammit. Togetherness rules my life – in the back of tour transit vans, in feminist collectives, volleyball teams, malt-soaked singing in the Royal Oak, communities of philosophical inquiry and village toddler group lunches.

I am quietly enraged that the campaign to maintain this extant model of political union between nations, the United Kingdom, is cornering the market in perceived togetherness. I won’t have it. I won’t have it, specifically, because it’s a belief in the possibility, integrity and global urgency of more well-founded and clearly articulated togetherness, more “us” and less “me”, care and compassion and ecological stewardship, that drives me towards a Yes vote for Scottish independence. The spurious togetherness that the UK has become is rooted in the normalisation, and institutionalisation, of selfishness, greed, corruption and disregard (Libor, RBS, Staffordshire Hospital Trust).

Scottish self-determination alone does not preclude this horrific stuff. There is too much here which reeks of human despair and indignity. I heed Gerry Hassan’s warning to be wary of a smug, uncritical belief in “the story of Scotland’s ‘Good Society’”. But our repeated overwhelming collective vote for broadly communitarian parties and policies is not without ethical ground.

Telling stories is my life. Stories are not mere mirrors. They are not necessarily true in equal measure to their accuracy in reflecting how things are. They speak to hope too. And they have power in their ability to activate, to move, to inspire us towards what might, should, or must be. That is, also, their truth.

The story of Scotland’s good society hooks me in at a fundamental level. That’s why I’m forgiving about the institutional minutiae. If I felt the institution of the UK shared my core values then self-determination in that context would be enough. If I thought a People’s Republic of Pathhead was necessary I’d be there on Main Street with a placard. An independent Scotland seems, simply, like a reasonable prospect to me. And Scotland already exists.

St Augustine is said to have written: “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are Anger and Courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.”

Let the Yes campaign be positive and hopeful, yes. But let’s allow it to be, where it needs to be, angry and bold too, please. And let’s harness more imagination to the urgent transformative telling of better stories about how we want to live.

Blogs • Scottish Green Party.

Daily Headline – 31/01/13

“Should Scotland be an independent country: yes/no?”

EU British Scottish flagThat is the question that will be put to the people of Scotland next year when they have their referendum on independence.

The Scottish people have democratically elected a leader (Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party) though he is limited in what he can do as the majority or laws (and all the major ones) come from London by a party elected by the English.

Scotland’s population: 5.5 million
England’s population: 53 million
Wales’ population: 3 million

So really it doesn’t matter who Scotland and Wales vote for because they will never be in a position to have the leaders they want while ‘Britain’ remains. No real democracy.

Ironically this situation is uncannily like Britain’s unhappy relationship with the European Union (EU), Britain wants out because it can’t have a loud enough say it what goes on and has to implement EU laws, just like Scotland has to implement England’s laws (mostly anyway, Scotland, like England have opt-out options with Britain and the EU respectively).

The English people want independence from the EU but they don’t want Scotland to have independence from them. In typical English style they want to have their cake and eat it.