The man who wrote these lines was none other than British prime minister Winston Churchill. This was in December 1944: Nazi troops were still resisting the Allies, which were making slow progress in Italy and being pushed back in the Ardennes faced with the Wehrmacht’s final counter-offensive. Yet the “bands” here targeted by Churchill were not groups of collaborators, but the partisans of the great National Liberation Front (EAM), which had for three years mounted mass resistance against the German occupiers.You are responsible for maintaining order in Athens and for neutralizing or destroying all EAM-ELAS [National Liberation Front – Greek People’s Liberation Army] bands approaching the city. You may make any regulations you like for the strict control of the streets or for the rounding up of any number of truculent persons…. It would be well of course if your command were reinforced by the authority of some Greek Government…. Do not, however, hesitate to act as if you were in a conquered city where a local rebellion is in progress…. We have to hold and dominate Athens. It would be a great thing for you to succeed in this without bloodshed if possible, but also with bloodshed if necessary.
Last time I went to vote I got handed a flyer from a republican telling me how to vote on all the issues, followed by one from a democrat doing the same.This is aimed at BOTH sides.......before Haggis starts having one of his usual meltdowns.
By “society,” read the interests of the English ruling class. While Matra was keen to forestall further political revolutions, he had no qualms about promoting an economic one:A body of emigrants … may in a commercial view be of great and permanent service to their parent community in some remote part of the world, who, if they continue at home, will probably live to see their own ruin, and will be very prejudicial to society.
Lord Sydney, the British Home Secretary, agreed to implement the plan, on the proviso that Matra reframe the colony as a penal settlement. Lord Sydney’s idea was far from novel. Convict transportation and European colonization had gone hand in hand since the early 1500s, when Portuguese felons were dumped on the Brazilian coast to act as emissaries to local indigenous groups. Indeed, the first known Europeans to see out their lives in Australia were Dutch rather than English convicts. The soldier Wouter Loos and the cabin boy Jan Pelgrom De Bye were abandoned on the Western Australian coast in 1629, as punishment for their participation in the Batavia mutiny.With good management, and a few settlers, in twenty or thirty years [the climate and soil of Australia] might cause a revolution in the whole system of European commerce, and secure to England a monopoly of some part of it.
The government responded quickly, with Scottish reformists such as Thomas Muir were transported in 1793. When a French-backed uprising was defeated in Ireland in 1798, many of the Irish republican rebels were also sent to Australia. The majority of the 162,000 convicts transported to Australia between 1789 and 1868 were petty criminals arrested for nonviolent property crimes; the number of political prisoners sits at somewhere around 3,600. While this is a small proportion of the total, the targeted transportation of political dissidents was designed as a general deterrent to others who might be tempted to take up such ideas. The transportation of large numbers of petty criminals, in turn, also served a less explicit counterrevolutionary purpose, preventing these unruly, excess inhabitants from swelling the ranks of any future uprisings.The entire overthrow of the British constitution, the general confiscation of property and the erection of a Democratic Republic founded on the ruins of all religion and of all political and civil society, and framed after the model of France.
Likewise, the Freeman’s Journal lamented how “the women of Paris have been prominent in the streets, with a red flag, demanding arms . . . and conducting themselves like ugly fiendish sisters of the witches in Macbeth.”utterly repugnant to the genius of the Irish race. Religion and Patriotism, the two most holy and glorious principles known to human nature, have ever been the guiding lights of the Irish people, the motive power of all their actions.
Connolly and the Commune[He] burst into the room in an excited state, and called those present a set of ruffians and blackguards. He said he had been led to the room on the pretence that the meeting was to be for a discussion of the labour and wages question, and that he would sooner burn the house over his head than hire it for the nefarious purposes of Internationalism.
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The methods and politics of the Paris Commune served as inspiration for Easter Rising leaders like James Connolly.
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When Karl Marx looked at the revolutionary self-governance of the 1871 Paris Commune, he saw an embodiment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Decades later, James Connolly, the leading Irish Marxist, seized on that same ethos of worker democracy. Writing in Workers’ Republic in May 1899, Connolly argued, “[T]he Commune, if it had been successful, would have inaugurated the reign of real freedom the world over — it would have meant the emancipation of the working class.”
The 1871 Paris Commune, an urban insurrection that lasted from March 18 until its brutal suppression on May 28, has always retained an important place in radical history and memory, synonymous with workers’ barricades in the streets and defiant red flags.
Its similarities with the 1916 Easter Rising, a nationalist rebellion put down after less than a week, are less frequently noted. But viewed through the lens of Connolly, the Commune comes into focus as an important antecedent to the 1916 rebellion.
A syndicalist who joined the Industrial Workers of the World while in the United States and later led the Easter Rising, Connolly’s “co-operative commonwealth” shared much with the Paris Commune’s manifesto. A student of history and leader of the Irish Citizen Army, Connolly also found much to learn from the urban warfare that marked the last days of the Commune.
In the aftermaths of both the Paris Commune and the Easter Rising, the Irish establishment used the specter of left-wing radicalism to bludgeon domestic leftists. These were early examples of anticommunist tropes that would persist for decades. But in at least one respect, they weren’t wrong: the methods and politics seen in the Paris Commune did shape Irish revolutionaries, particularly Connolly.
The Menace Abroad
Less than twenty years after the events of Paris, Irish socialist Jim Connell, inspired by the Commune, wrote the now-iconic anthem “The Red Flag.”
Connell’s positive view of the Paris Commune was not widely shared in Ireland. Denunciations were heard from the pulpit and pressroom. Some of the most vocal condemnations of the Paris Commune came from the Nation, a newspaper with origins in the 1840s Young Ireland movement.
The aspirations of the Commune, the Nation declared, were
Likewise, the Freeman’s Journal lamented how “the women of Paris have been prominent in the streets, with a red flag, demanding arms . . . and conducting themselves like ugly fiendish sisters of the witches in Macbeth.”
Above all, it was the anticlericalism of Commune partisans that rankled many in Ireland. In the Commune, they saw a dangerous threat to the Catholic Church. And indeed, anti-church sentiment ran strong. One Parisian publication sympathetic to the Commune declared that “as Jesus Christ was born in a stable, the only treasure that Notre-Dame ought to possess is a truss of straw.” During the Commune, churches were appropriated for communal purposes amid popular anger over their accumulated wealth and conservative politics.
The history of the Catholic Church in Ireland engendered a drastically different view of the clergy. Subjected to enormous repression in the decades before 1829 Catholic Emancipation, the Church was popularly regarded not as an oppressor like in France, but as an institution that had itself been oppressed.
With strong support among the populace, the Church’s antipathy toward the Commune proved harmful to early socialist organizing efforts. When part of the Socialist International’s Dublin branch met in a small room above a Dublin shop less than a year after the suppression of the Commune, a contemporary newspaper reported that the speaker was interrupted and informed that “the Internationalists had shot the Archbishop and priests of Paris.” A “great uproar ensued.”
The landlord of the house was not keen on the gathering.
Connolly and the Commune
For radicals in the late nineteenth century Ireland was a barren environment but the exception to this was James Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP). The party took a prominent role in the centenary celebrations of the 1798 United Irish rebellion, participated in protests against the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and in anti–Boer War agitation.
Gaining its strength from its attempt to synthesize socialism with anti-imperial separatism, one British newspaper noted disapprovingly that the party was “composed of a number of the most extreme and least reputable representatives of the nationalists of Dublin.”
Earlier socialist organizations in the city, such as the Socialist League, had organized commemorative meetings of the Commune in private, for fear of being broken up. But those hostile to the revolutionary politics of Paris had plenty of reason to reproach Connolly’s party. The ISRP held annual commemorations, with Connolly himself gave a lecture on the Commune in Dublin in March 1898.