James Connolly – an anarchist connection

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from our good friends at Come Here To Me (an excellent blog of Dublin history, politics & football)

 glasgow-anarchists-1915 pngPicture of the Glasgow Anarchist Group in 1915

In Mairtin O’Cathain‘s book With a bent elbow and a clenched fist: a brief history of the Glasgow anarchists, there is a short but fascinating mention of James Connolly.

Connolly’s paper, The Workers Republic, was suppressed by the authorities in December 1914 and O’Cathain writes that it was the “Glasgow Anarchist Group that took over the printing of the paper … and smuggled it into Ireland”. Apparently, the police in Britain raided several anarchist printing presses, including London’s Freedom Press, but never caught the Glasgow group.

In Donal Nevin’s fantastic biography of Connolly, ‘A Full Life’, there is a mention of Glasgow comrades taking over the printing of The Workers Republic. However, Nevin points to Connolly’s old colleagues in the Socialist Labour Party.  More specifically, Arthur MacManus who was the one who did the setting, composing, printing and then smuggled the copies to Dublin using the pseudonym ‘Glass’. (Belfast-born MacManus, son of an Irish fenian, later became the first chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain and was buried in Red Square, Moscow after his death in 1927.)

As Nevin backs up his claim with a reference to C.Desond Greave’s book ‘The Life and Times of James Connolly’, the evidence stacks in his favour.

Speaking of Connolly, I’ve always liked the story of Antrim-born Anarchist and Irish Citizen Army founder Jack White traveling to the Rhondda and Aberdare valleys in South Wales to try bring the miners out on strike to save his life.

jack-white pngJack White in his Irish Citizen Army uniform

On 25 May, thirteen days after Connolly’s execution, White was charged with trying to ‘sow the seeds of sedition in an area which had nothing to do with the grievances of Ireland either real or imaginary’ and at a time when ‘a peaceful settlement was being arrived at’. He was sentenced to two sentences of three months.

 

 

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New edition of MISFIT by Captain Jack White (co-founder of the Irish Citizen Army and Anarchist)

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By Phil Meyler

In this centenary year it is worth remembering the enigmatic Captain Jack White (1879-1946), co-founder of the Irish Citizen Army during the Irish Transport Workers’ Union strike in 1913

Paradoxically, Jack White was born into a loyalist and middle-class family, the son of Field Marshal Sir George White, Governor of Gibraltar.  He was brought up mixing in the highest circles of the British establishment, hardly an obvious beginning for someone who was to become co-founder of the Irish Citizen Army.

White had a colourful and diverse life. After being decorated for his part in the Boer War he resigned his commission, travelled extensively in Bohemia, worked as a lumberjack in Canada and lived in a Tolstoyan Commune in England.

Misfit tells the story of White’s spiritual inner revolution as well as the story of his part in the Irish Revolution. Prior to being instrumental in the founding of the Irish Citizen Army White had involved himself with the opposition to Sir Edmund Carson’s anti-Home Rule Bill and travelled to London to speak alongside George Bernard Shaw on the subjection of Irish Nationalism. He then went on to organise the 1913 protest meeting in Ballymoney, Co Armagh, which was addressed by Sir Roger Casement. The protest proved so effective that he was then invited to Dublin to speak on Home Rule.

White arrived in Dublin at the height of the 1913 Lockout. He met with James Connolly and Jim Larkin, and under the influence of Connelly quickly identified himself with the southern workers’ cause.

White was outraged at how the Catholic Church aided and abetted the Dublin Employers during the Lockout and this outrage was galvanised when they stopped starving Irish children of the strikers going to Liverpool ‘heathen’ homes. It was then that White and Jim Larkin called for volunteers to set up a defence force.

Some ten thousand were there, and almost all volunteered.  They were directed to the Transport Union Hall. The strike had not actually come to a confrontation however until the infamous Butt Bridge baton charge. White was arrested as one of the leaders of the demonstration and fought all the way to the police station.

After the 1916 Rising White was again arrested and imprisoned for trying to organise a strike of the Welsh miners in support of James Connolly who was imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail under sentence of execution.

Jack White, throughout the 1920s, was active in a host of organisations including The Irish Workers League and The Workers Party of Ireland, moving between Dublin, London and Belfast and now clearly identified himself with left republican politics. A regular public speaker, he also wrote for many publications including An Phoblacht.

In 1936, White travelled to Spain to help fight Fascism. Impressed by the social revolution that was unfolding there, he was attracted to the Anarchist cause and wrote the short pamphlets “The Meaning of Anarchy” (1937) and “Anarchism –A Philosophy of Action” (1937.

Returning to London in 1937, he worked with ‘Spain and the World’, a pro-anarchist propaganda group. With Matt Kavanagh, the Irish Liverpudlian anarchist he worked on a survey of Irish Labour and Irish aspirations in relation to anarchism and did a study of a little known Cork Soviet. He was also working on a second volume of Misfit, a kind of Misfit 2. The articles and pamphlets, which survive, are now preserved in the Kate Sharpley Library (www.katesharpleylibrary.net).

After his death, his second wife either alone or in conjunction with the White family, unfortunately destroyed these notes. It may have been through neglect or expediency but it was more than likely driven by White’s criticism of the Catholic Church. Whatever the reason, it was a tragic loss.

White made a final and brief reappearance in public life during the 1945 General Election campaign. Proposing himself as a ‘Republican Socialist’ candidate for the Antrim constituency, he convened a meeting at the local Orange Hall in Broughshane to outline his views. But he never actually got his name on the ballot paper.

Six months later Jack White died from cancer in a Belfast nursing home. After a private ceremony, he was buried in the White family plot in the First Presbyterian Church in Broughshane. The only thing written on the tombstone is that he was the son of Field Marshal Sir George White; there is no commemorative record or plaque anywhere.

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Anarchy magazine, special issue on Ireland (1971)

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Anarchy magazine, edited by Colin Ward, was published from London in the 1960s. A second series, with no direct connection to Ward’s, appeared in the 1970s. Issue no. 6, from 1971, was largely given over to articles written by members of People’s Democracy.

click here to download

It kicks off with an introduction looking at the reforms won by the civil rights movement, and the response of the left in Britain to internment.

Next is a detailed account of the police mutiny during the 1907 Belfast dock strike. The author, John Grey, went on to expand this into a book; City in Revolt (Blackstaff Press, 1987). The revolt was sparked by the refusal of Constable William Barrett to escort a wagon driven by a scab, and soon saw the majority of RIC men in the city put forward their own demands for pay and pension increases. The spirit of Larkinism was seen in statements like that condemning their officers for doing “all in their power to humiliate the Belfast police in the eyes of the public by turning them into “blacklegs” – to please their friends the capitalists”.

A biographical article about James Connolly emphasises his syndicalism, but the unknown author gets carried away by his own enthusiasm when he quotes the socialist poet Robert Lynd as proof that Connolly was not only a syndicalist but specifically an anarcho-syndicalist.

The history of People’s Democracy by J. Quinn takes us through the early PD’s development from a student civil rights group to a revolutionary socialist organisation. It gives us a real sense of how the most dynamic left group in the six counties at the time saw things at the beginning of the ’70s.

‘Major Mullen’ (the late John McGuffin) describes his arrest and time in Crumlin Road jail.

The 22 week strike by workers at Cement Limited in Drogheda and Limerick in 1970 saw PD helping the strikers by picketing scab deliveries coming into small non-union ports like Cushendun, Kilkeel and Ardglass. The Orange state responded with over 100 summonses, numerous arrests and several jail sentences. PD were also accused of responsibility when in Armagh “within the course of two weeks no fewer than 21 lorries owned by scabs mysteriously combusted” and in Newry when “over 200 people came out of their houses and stoned the boat (loaded with scab cement) out of the harbour”.

Finally, there are book reviews looking at the Blueshirts, Church & State in modern Ireland, and anarchism in urban life.

Red and Black Revolution 8 – 2004

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Article descriptions as given on the WSM website

The ideas of James Connolly by Oisín Mac Giollamóir
James Connolly is probably the single most important figure in the history of the Irish left. He was an organiser in the IWW in the USA but in Ireland is best known for his role in building the syndicalist phase of Irish union movement and for involving the armed defence body of that union, the Irish Citizens’ Army in the 1916 nationalist insurrection. This left a legacy claimed at one time or another not only by all the Irish left parties but also by the nationalists of Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein.

After the Dust Settles – Lessons from the Summit Protests by Jack White
Despite the very real problems associated with the idea of ‘summit hopping’ and spectacular protest these manifestations have provided a public face of anarchism and at least as importantly have given anarchists an opportunity to work together.

Summit protests and networks by Andrew Flood
The major advantage of the network form of organisation is that it allowed the rapid development and growth of a movement of tens of thousands from a tiny base without significant resources But no single form of organisation, unless it is one that involves the majority of workers, will ever be able to take it on in a straight fight.

Media Mayhem – Anarchists and the Mass Media by Chekov Feeney
This article examines the mainstream media and looks at the various factors which ensure that it effectively works as a propaganda tool for the powerful. It looks at ways in which anarchists can deal with this situation, by creating our own media, but also by challenging the hostility that they habitually encounter from the mainstream. It is mostly based on the experience of the 2004 Mayday protests in Dublin.

Playing the Media Game by Kevin Doyle
Perhaps the two biggest problems in dealing with the media are firstly that the media can, through the questions they ask and the pressures they bring, begin to set the political agenda of the group. Secondly servicing the media machine can take up all a group’s time and energy (to the detriment of the other activity).

Workers Without Bosses – Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina by José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
The original battle cry of Argentinean people “Que se vayan todos” – We want all of them out – that expressed the will to break with the corrupt bureaucracies, with the political class, turned out with all of them staying in the end. These experiences also highlight many of the problems anarchists elsewhere face in the wake of popular risings and they show us that the building of a libertarian society is not a matter of repeating clichés and slogans.

Review: No Global – The People of Ireland versus the Multinationals by Kevin Doyle
No Global appears at a vital time. Anyone who wants to see how the bigger picture has unfolded to date can read in detail about the numerous struggles. But No Global is less clear and less persuasive when it comes to dissecting the political ideas within the environmental movement and the problems these caused