March 18, 2016

The German and Russian sympathies of Connolly and Pearse

As by the Paris Review if he could speak German to his German captors in the Second World War, Kurt Vonnegut said:
"I had heard my parents speak it a lot. They hadn’t taught me how to do it, since there had been such bitterness in America against all things German during the First World War. I tried a few words I knew on our captors, and they asked me if I was of German ancestry, and I said, “Yes.” They wanted to know why I was making war against my brothers. 
I honestly found the question ignorant and comical. My parents had separated me so thoroughly from my Germanic past that my captors might as well have been Bolivians or Tibetans, for all they meant to me."

The cartoon above is from 1915, it is of the Kaiser of Germany, Wilhelm II. For James Connolly, Britain caused the First World War, it was the "pirate empire." However, the American President Woodrow Wilson held that Germany was fuelling the hostilities, as you can read below. This creates a difficulty for Irish nationalists.
But first, Frank Jacobs explained the cartoon above on
"The person depicted here was equally recognisable to the audience of the time (the cartoon dates from 1915, the second year of World War I). Should the black, eagle-encrusted helmet not be clue enough, the trademark handlebar moustache, dispelled any doubt: this is Wilhelm II, the Kaiser of Germany. 
Wilhelm II is ferociously trying - but failing - to swallow the world whole. The title L’ingordo is Italian, and translates to: ‘The Glutton’. The subtitle is in French: Trop dur means ‘Too hard’. The cartoon, produced by Golia, conveys a double message. 
It informs the viewer that the current conflict is the result of Wilhelm’s insatiable appetite for war and conquest, but he has bitten off more than he can chew. The image of the Kaiser vainly trying to ingest the world signals both the cause of the Great War, and predicts its outcome - the tyrant shall fail."
Like Lenin of Russia, James Connolly wanted a proletarian worker's Republic. Russia had been the first country to recognise the new Irish Republic. James Connolly saw himself as a contemporary of Lenin, a brother in the international socialist cadre. 

Patrick Pearse focused less on political ideology, and concerned himself almost solely with religion and the restoration of a prelapsarian Irish gaelic nation. However there is a Russo-Irish link in the Pearsean canon. In an 1906 essay Patrick Pearse wrote a portrait of the Ireland that he dreamed of. In that world Britain had been invaded and occupied by a Russian Republic. 

We can therefore say that both Connolly and Pearse vehemently objected to Britain but supported a revolutionary Russian Republic. 

There is a contradiction here. Russia underwent a revolution. It then became expansionist and dominationist, and governed its people despotically. It was aggressive internally and externally.

Let me explain. 

In imagining the Ireland of 2006 Patrick Pearse saw the conquest of England by the Russian republic. Bryan Fanning explained in the Dublin Review of Books:
"One article announced the opening of the Oireachtas (Parliament) by the Ard-Rí (High King) at a ceremony to be attended by the Emperor of the French and the President of the Russian Republic."
Pearse wrote:
"The conquest of England by the Russian republic and the splitting up of the British Empire into independent kingdoms and republics soon destroyed the commercial value of English. It had never been a valuable language in intellectual terms."
"This collapse of Britain had provided the impetus for the abandonment of English as a second language in Ireland in all but three schools, two in Belfast and one in Rathmines."
James Connolly wrote in International Socialist Review, 'Revolutionary Unionism and War’ (March, 1915):
"I believe the war could have been prevented by the socialists; as it was not prevented and as the issues are knit, I want to see England beaten so thoroughly that the commerce of the seas will henceforth be free to all nations – to the smallest equally with the greatest."
James Connolly wrote 'The Hope of Ireland’ (October 1914):
"The Labour Movement in Ireland stands for the ownership of all Ireland by all the Irish; it therefore fights against all things calculated to weaken the hold of the Irish upon Ireland, as it fights for all things calculated to strengthen the grasp of the Irish people upon Ireland and all things Irish. It has no war with Germany, it welcomes the German as a brother struggling towards the light. It believes that the blood guiltiness of this war lies chiefly at the door of that British Empire whose ‘farflung battle line’ is a far-flung shadow upon the face of civilized progress. And so believing, it counsels the Irish race to stand aloof from the battle, since it cannot intervene as a nation on the only side that honour and interest dictates." 
James Connolly wrote an essay in the Irish Worker, 'On German Militarism’ (August 1914):
"German thought is abreast of the best in the world; German influences have shaped for good the hopes of the world, but the thought and the hopes of the best in Russia was but the other day drowned in blood by Russia’s worst. 
To help Britain is to help Russia to the dominance of Europe, to help the barbarian to crush the scientist. That is the reflection of the wise revolutionist of today."
In August 1914 James Connolly also wrote ‘The War Upon The German Nation’ in the Irish Worker, Larkin’s publication. Connolly who called Britain the “pirate empire” wrote “I want to see England beaten so thoroughly”. You can see that above, and Connolly also wrote:
"For God help us and them, they are still our brave Irish boys though deluded into fighting for the oppressor – around whom such shells will be falling by day and by night for many a long month to come. Think of them, and think also of the multitude of brave German boys who never did any harm to them or to us, but who rather loved us and our land, and our tongue and our ancient literature, and consider that those boys of ours will be busy sending shot and shell and rifle ball into their midst, murdering and mangling German lives and limbs, widowing humble German women orphaning helpless German children... I wish to try and trace the real origin of this war upon the German nation, for despite all the truculent shouts of a venal press and conscienceless politicians, this war is not a war upon German militarism, but upon the industrial activity of the German nation... From the moment that realisation entered into the minds of the British capitalist we may date the inception of this war... Yes, this war is the war of a pirate upon the German nation."
President Woodrow Wilson in a Special Session of Congress held on 2 April 1917 delivered his ‘War Message.’ Four days later, Congress overwhelmingly passed the War Resolution which brought the United States into the Great War. In his 'War Message', Wilson said:
"The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind. 
It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it. The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion."
Liam O'Ruairc wrote:
"What distinguishes Connolly’s analysis from Lenin or Luxemburg’s is that he clearly believed that the war was a result of the crisis of a decaying British capitalism and imperialism as opposed to a general crisis of world capitalism and imperialism. It was the war of “the pirate nation” and “savage Cossacks” against the progressive German ‘state socialism’. There is no doubt that from September 1914 Connolly not only desired a German victory over Britain  but also praised Germany as a modern, progressive state containing the “best educated working class in the world, the greatest number of labour papers, the greatest number of parliamentary and local representatives elected on a working class platform, the greatest number of socialist voters – all of this was an infallible index to the high level of intelligence of the German working class as well as their strong and political and industrial position.” This Connolly pointed to the “high civilization of the whole German nation. Upon such a formula Germany laid her success in trade. And her success in war"."
Hugh Stevens pointed out the aggressive and expansionist fate of Lenin's revolutionary socialist Russia. Stevens wrote in April 1981, 'Connollyism and Leninism':
"James Connolly did not entertain any illusion that nations would miraculously melt away after the victory of socialism in a number of countries or throughout the world. “Under a socialist system,” he wrote, every nation will be the supreme arbiter of its own destinies, national and international; it will be forced into no alliance against its will, but will have its independence guaranteed and its freedom respected by the enlightened selfinterest of the social democracy of the world." 
What a strong contrast this presents with those who, under the banner of socialism, oppose the oppression of Ireland and other countries by British imperialism, and yet nevertheless condone the ruthless aggression of the Soviet Union’s rulers against the people of the world. Trampling over the national rights of the peoples of Eastern Europe and so many other countries, the Soviet Union’s rulers have betrayed every principle that Connolly, Lenin and Stalin stood for. 
It was Ruairi O’Bradaigh, President of Provisional Sinn Fein, who spoke the true voice of Connollyism when, at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis last year [1980], that stalwart fighter against British imperialism voiced “heartfelt support” for the struggle of the people of Afghanistan against the brutal occupation of their country by Soviet imperialism. How Connolly would have appreciated this standpoint! As Connolly said, “The internationalism of the future will be based upon the free federation of free peoples and cannot be realized through the subjugation of the smaller by the larger political unit”."
However, Mr. T. M. Healy wrote:
"The courage of the Sinn Feiners atoned for much of their folly in the mind of those who realized that their spirit was not pro-German, but, in the main, a revolt against the conversion of Dublin Castle into a Redmondite Tammany Hall. Their uprising was the answer to the corruption, jobbery, and judge-mongering of the Molly Maguires masquerading in the vestments of religion. Hence the wholesale arrests of men not in rebellion have evoked no protest from Mr. Redmond, 'who watches calmly the dispersal of his critics,' hoping to find a new lease of life under a new jobbing nominee." 

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