This may not be the best of subjects planned for my initial author’s blog, because it ventures into the often precarious topic of politics, when as an author, I wish only for readers to like and enjoy my published books and not necessarily anyone else’s politics.
However, the story that I have uncovered is so full of passion, courage, and dedication, impacting events throughout world history, that it deserves to be retold many times over, especially two months ahead of one of the most controversial celebrations in modern times to take place in April 2016 in Ireland.
The subject event was precipitated by the advent of one of the bloodiest wars in history (17 million killed) called the Great War, World War I, in 1914. According to Wikipedia, the growing likelihood of enforced conscription of the Irish to fight for Britain, and the British war powers acts that denied free speech and free press had as much to do with the uprising as a nationalistic urge to free Ireland from England’s oppression. Much of the following information comes from the recently published (2015) book by James Heartfield and Kevin Rooney entitled “Who’s Afraid of the Easter Rising?”: The Defence of the Realm Act, a war powers act by Britain over Ireland, covered any and all activities of life, both political and social and especially prohibited the right to organize, assemble or strike.. To the extent that any act, innocent or not could be construed as an act of sedition, punishable by imprisonment or death, Britain laid siege to the Irish, on top of and in addition to their years of prior suffering,
At the beginning of the war, in 1914, an organization called the Irish Republican Brotherhood met in September, thereafter organizing a military group called the Irish Volunteers whose stated object was ‘to secure and to maintain the rights and liberties common to all people of Ireland.” (Wikipedia) . In January 1916, a group of armed socialist trade union men and women called the Irish Citizens Army, led by James Connolly agreed to join penalties them in any military action for the jerseys\n cause of Ireland. James Connolly, trade unionist, had recently published the following in August 1914 in The Irish Worker: “Should the working class of Europe, rather than slaughter cheap jerseys each other for the benefit of kings and financiers, proceed tomorrow to erect barricades all over Europe , to break up bridges and destroy the transport service that war might be abolished, we should be perfectly justified in following such a glorious example and contributing our aid to the final dethronement of the vulture classes that rule and rob the world–. Starting thus, Ireland may yet set the torch to a European conflagration that will not burn out until the last throne and the last capital bond or debenture will be shriveled on the last pyre of the last warlord.”
After months of planning, early on Monday morning, April 24, 1916, roughly 1200 Volunteers and Citizen Army members, took over strong points in Dublin City Centre. A joint force of about 400 Volunteers and Citizen Army gathered at Liberty Hall under the command of James Connolly. The rebel not headquarters was the General Post Office (GPO) where James Connolly, overall Military Commander and four other members of the Military Council, Padraig Pearse, Tom Clarke, Sean Mac Dermott and Joseph Plunkett were also present.
After occupying the Post Office , the Volunteers hosted two Republican flags and Pearse read a Proclamation of the Republic. The balance of forces took over Dublin City Centre, Dublin City hall and the legal center called the Four Courts, as well as a number of other areas in Dublin and the outskirts. The British Military were caught totally unprepared and their response on the first day was generally uncoordinated. However, the Lord Lieutenant Winborne declared martial law and handed over power to British General William Lowe who was able to bring in thousands of reinforcements eventually totaling 16,000 troops. They were supplied with heavy artillery, armored trucks, and machine guns. Connolly was wounded, Pearse took over, and heavily outnumbered, surrendered on Saturday, April 29th.
In a series of courts martial, 90 people were sentenced to death. Fifteen people including the seven signatories to the proclamation were executed by firing squad in May. The most prominent leader to escape execution was Eamon de Valera, Commandant of the Third Battalion, who did so because of his American birth. 1480 men were interned in England under the” Defence of the Realm Act, 1914”; many of them had little or nothing to do with the affair.
What follows is ‘the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say on his nationally syndicated radio broadcasts. The Easter Rising was the first open revolt against Europe’s warlords. Though it was crushed, it would set the torch to a European conflagration. Moreover:
The example of the Easter Rising in 1916 rang around the world!
In May 1916 an English article dismissed the Easter Rising as just a “putsch” ( a sudden secret attempt only to overthrow the existing government.) The Russian Socialist, V.I. Lenin wrote a stinging rebuke to the author.
- “To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression-to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view could vilify the Irish rebellion as a “putsch”. Lenin welcomed the “blow delivered against the power of the English imperialist bourgeoisie by a rebellion in Ireland”.
- The Trinidad revolutionary C.L.R. James wrote that it was “the first blow struck against imperialism during the war at a time when the revolution movement in Europe seemed sunk in apathy.”
- Four months after Lenin’s article and nine months after the Easter Rising, in 1917, the Soviet revolution in Russia took up arms to take that nation out of war, dismissed their Tsar and nine months after that, founded the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter, the Hungarian revolution led by Bela Kun, erupted for the same reasons.
- To the average well informed, the question about how World War ended, all most of us knew was because of an “armistice”, period. This is how it actually ended: In October 1918, hearing that they were to be sent on a desperate sortie, sailors in the ports of Hamburg, Kiel, and Wilhelmshaven revolted They seized the ports and then went in their thousands to the main cities like Bremerhaven and Berlin to demand an end to the war. The German revolution of 1918 won the abdication of the Kaiser on November 9 and the war ended two days later. The author, Paul Mason noted that the socialist underground in Germany had been building up its organization in the Northern ports since Easter, 1916!
- In February, 1919, delegates of the Irish Trades Union Conference were heartily greeted at the meeting of the Socialist International conference at Berne. In April, at the follow-up conference in Amsterdam, the International called on the Peace Conference to make good the rightful claim of the Irish people!
- In 1920, an Irish company of Connaught Rangers of the British Army were stationed in Jullundur, India. They refused to work as a protest against their friends back home being oppressed. Sixty nine men were tried for mutiny. The British Secretary of State telegrammed the Viceroy of India in July 1920: “We have every reason to believe that the whole affair was engineered by Sinn Fein.” Large Sinn Fein flags were hoisted in the barracks when the mutiny broke out at Jullundur—Sinn Fein colours and rosettes were also worn. The soldiers explained: “If you were to be shot, stick up for your Irish home which is ruined by the troops in our dear country. Look at what they done (sic) in Ireland in 1916!” When the men began their mutiny, they renamed their barracks Liberty Hall after the headquarters of the Irish Citizen’s Army in Dublin. The mutineers were tried and sentenced to death, subsequently commuted, expect one as an example; private James Daly was executed in Dagshai Prison on November 2, 1920. The remaining members returned to Ireland and later took up arms against the very army that they had served.
- As well as signaling the beginning of the end of the Great War, the Easter Rising would echo further throughout the British Empire in the years afterwards. India’s emerging national movement, in particular, was electrified by the republican’s success in freeing themselves from the British yoke. “Bravo!, the Indian paper Ghad, saluted the Easter Rising: O, Irish, you kept your sword on high and did not show the white feather.” (August 1917).
- In February 1919 Laipat Rai told the Irish Race Convention in Philadelphia that in 1925 there would be more Sinn Feiners in India than in Ireland. Egypt, in 1919, revolted against British rule and its leaders referenced Ireland in its rebellion.
- India as well as Burma and even Vietnam used a book for revolutionaries through the 1930’s written by Dan Breen called My Fight for Irish Freedom and was translated into four different languages in the Far East and banned by the British colonial authorities.
- Bengal (now Bangladesh) in 1934 put out a pamphlet of the United Socialist Republican Party with side-to-side portraits of its leader, Subhas Chandra Bose and the late Michael Collins, head of the IRA. The headline read: “What Ireland has done, Bengal will do.”
- The young Ho Chi Minh, before he was President of Vietnam traveled to Europe between 1912 and 1919 “He saw how England, the largest colonial power in the world, harshly suppressed Ireland’s quest for independence”, writes his biographer Pierre Brocheeux, and was particularly impressed that the Irish took up arms in 1916 right in the middle of World War I. He wrote in his diary that he cried wholesale jerseys when he heard of the death of Terrence MacSwinney, saying “a nation which has such citizens will never surrender.”
- At Sean McBride’s funeral (the son of John MacBride executed in the Rising) in 1988 as a United Nations Commissioner to South Africa, the leader of the African National Congress, Oliver Tambo said: “We, in the ANC, have rich memories of a great Irishman, a revolutionary and freedom fighter, who recognize that freedom, like peace, was indivisible.” They also drew on the Irish Proclamation of 1916 for their use in the ANC organization in 1954.
We could list any number of countries that were changed or redirected throughout the world as a result of the Rising, but space constrains. Yet the questions linger: how could a tiny island nation with a population less than any of a number of large cities in America, without an army, navy, or air force, come to be largely responsible for the dissolution of the largest colonial power on the planet? Equally, how did this one little country come to influence the lives of untold millions of citizens throughout the world, and finally, just as important, why did I, and presumably millions like me, not know of the tremendous worldwide impact of this event until 100 years later?
As to the controversial commemoration in April to be held in this subject nation, there may well be a greater divide among its countrymen than there were at the Rising. The North is finally at peace and many people of goodwill would like to leave it that way with a muted celebration. Likewise, the Irish Free State in the South has its share of concern of raucous celebration lest it appear to fellow European Union members that the northern peace process is endangered, while raising hopes for a United Ireland. On the other hand, however, recognition of the event is an inescapable opportunity to celebrate the birth of this brave and glorious nation. Whatever follows is unknown, but it must be recognized that deep within the Irish soul, including among wholesale jerseys China the Irish that I know, while always ready for a celebratory party, may never fully be content until the emerald isle is ONE.
Synopsized and Reviewed by Edward F. MacMillan
(Author of TURBULENCE Career, Drugs, Sex; Intertwined. Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback and ebook)