November 07, 2013

Fintan O'Toole on Arthur Griffiths

In 1992 Fintan O'Toole wrote of the founder of Sinn Fein, Arthur Griffiths as a racist, an anti-Semite and a reverse imperialist. In the Irish Times of August 15 1992 he wrote:
"Griffith is many of the things Mr [Brian] Mae says he is - patriotic, far-thinking, personally honest. But he is also in many ways a repugnant figure, the progenitor of a particularly nasty strain of far right-wing Irish nationalism. If anything, he is the classic example of selfish patriotism, claiming for his own country rights which he was not prepared to extend to others among the oppressed."
Fintan O'Toole continued and explained Griffiths as a racist and reverse imperialist:
One of the reasons for remembering Griffiths now is that he stands, at this time of virulent and destructive nationalism in Europe, as a great example of how nationalist ideals can become detached from their origins in the Englightenment principles of equality, tolerance, and humanity. Whereas a great tradition of Irish political thinking from Swift through O'Connell to James Connolly understood that Ireland's rights are inseparable from the rights of despised races around the world and from the rights of the oppressed withing Ireland, Griffith tried to break that connection. To the extent that he succeeded, his memory should be a bitter one. 
Griffith strongest antecedent in Irish nationalism is not O'Connell's democratic populism, but John Mitchell's peculiar brand of reverse imperialism which could encompass both a passionate denunciation of English savagery in Ireland and a passionate support for slavery in America. The mind-set is not one which challenges the assumptions of Victorian and racial imperialism but merely one which wants the Irish to be given their rightful places among the master races."
Fintan O'Toole explained that Griffiths' racist nationalism came from his time in the latter half of the 1890s in the Transvaal "as a propagandist for Boer nationalism." Fintan O'Toole also explained Griffiths' hard-line anti-semitism:
"Griffith in the midst of the 1913 Lockout, in which he was strongly on the side of the employers, wrote and instructive afterword to a re-issue of Mitchell's 'Jail Journal'. In it, he makes plain his support for Mitchell's contempt for the anti-slavery movement in America... Mitchell, wrote Griffiths, needed no excuse for 'refusing to hold the negro his peer'... To [the race nationalism in Transvaal (where Griffiths spent the later half of the 1890s)] he added the worst of the influences of the worst of the modernising right-wing movements of the Europe of his day, drawing heavily on both Bismarckian Germany and anti-Dreyfusard France. 
The latter influence allowed him to add anti-semitism to racism in his political thinking. In the United Irishman he thundered against those newspapers which supported Dreyfus as 'the impotent ravings of a disreputable minority which is universally regarded as a community  of thieves and traitors.' 
When the Jewish people of Limerick were under attack in the pogrom of 1904s, Griffith, the great defender of Irish rights, weighed in against them, and even attacked the great nationalist Michael Davitt for his defence of them. His language is a remarkable foreshadowing of that used a little later by Adolf Hitler in 'Mein Kempf'."
As I wrote on the blog previously, Christopher Hitchens has made it clear that anti-semitism is a prejudice held by the mentally and morally unwell. Christopher Hitchens explained this of Billy Graham here. We can exchange the name Billy Graham with Arthur Griffiths and get a very clear picture and image of the nature and character of the founder of Sinn Fein. As Hitchens said:
"The evidence is that Billy Graham [in this instance, Arthur Griffiths] suffers from a very horrible disease, a version of paranoia that's known colloquially as anti-Semitism. It's impossible to be mentally or morally healthy if you suffer from this disorder. [He was] sick with this conspiratorial, infantile nonsense and that's not pardonable." 
On a side note, in 1904 Arthur Griffith suggested the idea of a dual-monarchy between Ireland and Great Britain in his book The Resurrection of Hungary. Griffith explained how in 1867 Hungary went from being part of the Austrian Empire to a separate co-equal kingdom in Austria-Hungary. Griffiths' was not a monarchist but supported the concept for the Anglo-Irish relationship. It was rejected by other Irish political leaders.

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