Irish anarchists “are the least educated of all” (1900)

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chron-extract

In this British newspaper report from the Daily Chronicle of August 8th, 1900 readers are told that Irish anarchists in Britain “are the least educated of all” and “there are no Anarchists in Ireland”.

Leaving aside the stereotype, then common in England, that the Irish were a dim-witted lot, the “no Anarchists in Ireland” assertion is open to question.  What public presence, if any, anarchism had in the 1890s and early 1900s is only beginning to be looked into.  However we now know that there were active anarchist groups in the years before and after, thanks to researchers like Fintan Lane and Mairtin O Cathain.

In the years after the Dublin branch of the Socialist League declared for anarchism in 1886, anarchists like Thomas Fitzpatrick and Michael Gabriel had some influence in the labour movement, as evidenced by their election to the Executive of the National Labour League.

We also know that there was an anarchist group in Belfast in the 1900s. They brought over the Scottish anarchist John McAra, who spoke against the monarchy from the steps of the Belfast Custom House in 1908.  This had resulted in him being charged with sedition, and jailed for three months.

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The Daily Chronicle was a British newspaper published from 1872 to 1930, when it merged with the Daily News to become the News Chronicle, which ceased publication in 1960. It’s political stance was broadly supportive of the Liberal Party.

Thanks to Sam from the excellent Come Here To Me blog for this cutting.

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Irish anarchism in the 1880s

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Irish anarchism is often seen as a movement which started in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with just a minor pre-history of lone individuals prior to that. Historian Fintan Lane has done much to correct this misunderstanding, particularly with his book The origins of modern Irish socialism, 1881-1896 (Cork University Press, 1997).

When we read of Irish revolutionaries in the 1880s, we read of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (popularly known as the Fenians) rather than the anarchists who were becoming influential among advanced radicals in much of Europe. With the dominance of nationalist ideas among Irish radicals of the time, neither Marxism nor anarchism had many supporters here. But that is not to say that there none.

According to Lane “The emergence of a Dublin branch of the Socialist League in December 1885 marks the beginning of modern organised socialism in Ireland, though it was immediately preceded by the semi-socialist Dublin Democratic Association. An unbroken continuity of organisation exists between this first socialist group and Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party of 1896. Moreover, the libertarian socialism of the Socialist League remained influential within Dublin socialist circles until the arrival of ‘new unionism’ and the subsequent establishment of branches of the Independent Labour Party in Dublin, Belfast and Waterford in the mid-1890s.”

We have two articles by Lane: Practical Anarchists We was published by History Ireland in March/April 2008 (vol.16, no.2), and The origins of modern Irish socialism, 1881-1896 in Red & Black Revolution (no.3) in 1997.

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