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Posts Tagged ‘anarchism’

“What was this Republic of which I now heard for the first time? Who were the leaders the British had executed after taking them prisoners, Tom Clarke, Padraic Pearse, James Connolly and all the others, none of whose names I had ever heard? What did it all mean?”

So wrote a young British soldier serving in Mesopotamia, or Iraq to you and me. Bemused by what had occured in Dublin, this one soldier had gone to war not lured by the recruitment posters featuring small nations (often personified in the form of female characters) but in his own words “..for no other reason than that I wanted to see what war was like, to get a gun, to see new countries and to feel like a grown man”. This young soldier would continue to serve that army afterwards, but in 1920 became a member of the 3rd Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army, rising through the ranks to become a flying column leader who inflicted terror on Auxiliary forces at Kilmichael and the Essex Regiment of the British Army and the Royal Irish Constabulary at Crossbarry. The young man, of course, was Tom Barry.

Tom Barry

Barry was not the only Republican leader who saw the Rising in an unusual manner. In Dublin,a young medical student named Ernie O’ Malley was taken aback by events, and vivdly described events on Sackville Street.

“Other shops had just been looted: Lawrence’s toy bazaar and some jewellers. Diamond rings and pocketsful of gold watches were selling for sixpence and a shilling, and one was cursed if one did not buy…. Ragged boys wearing old boots, brown and black, tramped up and down with air rifles on their shoulders or played cowboys and Indians, armed with black pistols supplied with long rows of paper caps. Little girls hugged teddy bears and dolls as if they could hardly believe their good fortune”

Ernie O' Malley

While literally seeing the outbreak of the rebellion, O’ Malley would also encounter a student he knew who told him they were arming themselves in case Trinity College would be attacked. O’ Malley informed the student that while he was off home, he would return later(The fact O’ Malley was a UCD Student would no doubt lead to cries of ‘Sacrilege!’ from some even today). Largely indifferent at first to what was occuring, O’ Malley would quickly turn towards the rebels, even making his way down Moore Street and towards Nelsons Pillar one night, where he discussed the rising so far with a uniformed officer of the Irish Citizen Army. Amazingly, O’ Malley and a schoolboy friend would take it upon themselves to assist the rebels, through taking potshots at soldiers with a rifle his friends father had been given “as a present by a soldier who brought it back from the Front”

In his memoir, On Another Man’s Wound he went on to note that after the rebellion he purchased a copy of James Connolly’s Labour In Irish History. History would see Ernie O’ Malley remembered as a leading republican anti-treatyite, and a key intellectual within the movement.

James Stephens

In Dublin, James Stephens was surprised by the outbreak of the insurrection, in fact to the extent that he did not notice at first and went about his business. A novelist and poet, his account of the week, The Insurrection in Dublin, is well written and oft-humourous.

“This has taken everyone by surprise. It is possible, that with the exception of their staff, it has taken the Volunteers themselves by surprise; but,today, our peaceful city is no longer peaceful; guns are sounding or rolling and cracking from different directions, and, although rarely, the rattle of machine guns can be heard also.

Two days ago war seemed very far away- so far, that I have convenated with myself to learn the alphabet of music”

Stephens would seek confirmation of the Risings continuation from his own window, and the Republican flag flying over the Jacob’s Garrison, under the command of Thomas MacDonagh, but including a diverse band of individuals like Peadar Kearney (author of The Soldiers Song), Major John MacBride and the actress Máire Ní Shiubhlaigh, a member of Cumann na mBán, the womens auxiliary force to the Irish Volunteers.

“It is half-past three o’clock, and from my window the Republican flag can still be seen flying over Jacob’s factory. There is occasional shooting, but the city as a whole is quiet. At a quarter to five o’clock
a heavy gun boomed once. Ten minutes later there was heavy machine gun firing and much rifle shooting. In another ten minutes the flag at Jacob’s was hauled down.

Many had believed that the country would rise after Dublin, and create a national uprising out of a regional one. This was not to be, with contradictory orders from national leadership leading to mass confusion. Liam Mellows mustered a force of several hundred in Galway who were involved in several attacks on police barracks’ yet did not have the capability to sustain any sort of campaign in the region. Men of the ‘Fingal Batallion’ of the Irish Volunteers would find themselves active in Ashbourne, County Meath with Thomas Ashe, where they inflicted real damage on local Royal Irish Constabulary forces. Still, the significant forces available to the Volunteers nationwide were not used, as many had obeyed the order of Eoin MacNeill and word did not travel from Dublin at a speed to allow for a nationwide insurrection.

Dan Breen, front row.

The frustration of some Volunteers outside Dublin can be clearly felt in Dan Breen’s account of news reaching him in Tipperary, and his attempts to establish contact with Sean Treacy, a leading figure of the Third Tipperary Brigade and a close friend.

“Sean had left his home on the first news of the Rebellion and cycled from one centre to another, urging the Tipperary Volunteers to take action….

…We were bitterly dissapointed that the fighting had not extended to the country. We swore that, should the fighting ever be resumed, we would be in the thick of it, no matter where it took place”

Perhaps fittingly, on the 21st of January, 1919, Sean and Dan would play no small part in resuming the fighting with the Soloheadbeg Ambush, an action that has found a place in Irish history as the event which essentially kick-started the War of Independence. Anyone new to the period should seek out the ‘Wanted’ poster for Dan Breen, which is sure to raise a chuckle, highlighting his “sulky bulldog appearance” among other things.

Events in Dublin would have a ricochet effect far beyond the city or even Irish countryside. In Wales, Captain Jack White would find himself arrested too.

Captain Jack White

White had drilled, and in fact dressed (disagreeing with Sean O’ Casey on the matter of uniforming such a workers militia), the Citizen Army long before the insurrection.

In his memoir, Misfit, White noted that “In short, I am arrested in the South Wales coalfield for trying to get the Welsh miners out on strike. Why? To save Jim Connolly being shot for his share in the Easter Rising in command of the Citizen Army. Had I succeeded I would have crippled the coal supply for the British Fleet”

Years after the insurrection, White would find himself an anarchist in Spain,and in an article published on November 11th 1936 titled “A Rebel In Barcelona: Jack White’s First Spanish Impressions” White would once again speak of the Easter Rising.

“You will have heard no doubt about the Dublin Rising of 1916. That rising is now thought of as purely a national one, of which the aims went no further than the national independence of Ireland. It is conveniently forgotten that not only was the manifesto published by the “bourgeois” leaders concieved in a spirit of extreme liberal democracy, but, associated with the “bourgeois” leaders was James Connolly, the international socialist, who some regarded as the great revolutionary fighter and organiser of his day. In command of the Irish Citizen Army, which I had drilled, he made common cause with the Republican separatists against the common Imperial enemy.”

The article was printed in the CNT-AIT Boletin de Informacion, and White concluded by stating he greeted the working class revolution with “..the voice of revolutionary Ireland”

Not all former comrades of James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army were as kind. Sean O’Casey had walked from the Citizen Army (where he held the situation of Honorary Secretary) with maintained a belief that the Citizen Army had aligned itself too closely with what he saw as reactionary nationalist forces.

Sean O' Casey

In his ‘Story of the Irish Citizen Army’ (available to read free online over at Libcom) O’Casey wrote of the raising of the green flag over Liberty Hall, stating that in his opinion “Labour had laid its precious gift of Independence on the altar of Irish Nationalism…”

Concluding Book 3 of his own autobiography, Drums under the Windows, published in 1945, it becomes clear he did not change his views with regards the new and secondary role the Irish labour movement had taken to Irish nationalism:

“But Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan, walks firm now, a flush on her haughty cheek. She hears the murmur in the people’s hearts. Her lovers are gathered around her, for things are changed, changed utterly.

A terrible beauty is born.

Poor, dear, dead men. Poor W.B. Yeats”

Lastly, it is worth taking a brief look at a story that is personal and not political. In Portrait of a Rebel Father , Nora Connolly O’ Brien, daughter of James Connolly, describes the initial reaction of the family to their fathers execution.

Nora Connolly O' Brien

“Mama, we must go back to the Castle and ask for daddy’s body”
“They won’t give it to us”
“We must ask”
It was refused.
“Mrs. Connolly”- a nurse came to them as they stood in the hall not knowing what to do- “before Mr. Connolly left us I cut this off for you” On her hand was a lock of daddy’s hair. Mama took it and held to her cheek all that was left of him.

Of course, the above opinions and reactions are just a small sample of what is out there. This Easter Week, we should look at the event not just as a week long insurrection, but as an event that would ricochet on through the troubles that followed and continue to spark debate long after the last bullets whizzed through the Dublin sky.

A fantastic snap from life.com from one of the the 2006 commemorations at the GPO,Dublin.

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Last Thursday, as some readers may know, the three of us behind CHTM went to check out seminal hardcore band Propagandhi in The Village. I was granted an oppurtunity to have a few words with guitarist/ vocalist Chris Hannah. And I nice guy he was too, though not a Dub, he has family in “Cork County.”
Chris Hannah, Propagandhi

Chris Hannah, Propagandhi

It’s good to have you guys back in Dublin, you’ve been here three times in the last nine years and a lot has changed in that time, not least your music; In my opinion you’ve evolved and matured from your early days and I would say that’s definitely for the better- what would you say?

I would say thank you, and obviously we would too and I think all bands should evolve and mature really, otherwise somethings wrong.

But it’s always good to hear the old stuff?

Yeah, of course, and it’s easier to play too!

You guys added another guitarist in Beaver a couple of years back, has that made a big difference to the band?

Well, yes. As a three piece, we struggled to reproduce the songs live as they were on record; it was always mildly disappointing to hear it live-  all our records have two guitars, and sound more layered. So this has helped us to get something more accurate when we play live- When Beaver plays, it gives things a better sense of atmosphere.

You obviously knew him since his I-Spy days – Was there any other Canadian bands that had an influence on you guys?

Well, older bands like SNFU, Guilt Parade, Voivod, NoMeansNo, Sacrifice, Razor – Mainly bands that had their heyday in the 80s. Some of them, like Voivod and SNFU are still playing, and are staging a revival having made some of their most compelling music in the last five years, and that’s really inspiring for us, we’re getting fucking old now, two of us are hitting forty and we’re starting to feel it!

So as you get older then, are there any bands from Canada/ North America you see as taking the torch from you guys?

Well, Protest the Hero are really young guys, when they started, they told us that they had been really into our records, and that’s cool. Since then, they’ve obviously evolved so much and become such amazing musicians. Hardcore is only really being heard in small basement shows in Canada now, it’s hard to find anything that’s above the radar!

Punk rock bands can be two a penny these days – What keeps driving you guys to play the music you do?

Well, being able to play with friends is a huge thing, playing with guys I’ve been friends with for many years. I always had this sense of wonder – I remember being six or seven and my mom bought home this tape recorder, pressed record and played it back; I remember listening back to my voice with this sense of wonder, and that’s something that has stayed with me, I have it when I listen to our songs back through the speakers, and I guess when that dies…

Propagandhi

Propagandhi

I’m sure it must be an amazing feeling when you hear something you’ve put so much into back?

For us, because each of us, separately don’t have much going for us, together  we’re able to cobble together songs that remind us of bands that we really like so we’re always impressed!

I wouldn’t say that- For me, you guys are probably one of the more technically proficient Hardcore bands out there!

Well, thanks for saying so!

Todays Empires in probably still my favourite Propagandi album; so what’s yours?

Well, the new one, but I’ve got a soft spot for Potempkin because it sort of disappeared from the radar, nobody knew much about it!

Would you say that it disappeared off the radar because you guys left almost five years between Todays Empires and Potempkin?

Partly that and partly because at the time, we didn’t really do any promotion, we didn’t tour and let it sit there; the record company knew that and just didn’t bother telling anybody about the record and I think also at that time we were a three piece and something was missing, and something it took us almost a year to work it out, so when we realized, we were like… get Beaver over here!

 So would you say you are as political as you always have been? The new record comes across more personally reflective than overtly political…

More-so than ever I would say. There’s individual members who are more politically engaged back home, whether that’s in progressive community initiatives or supporting international solidarity movements, the only thing that’s changed for us is the sense of the scope and the scale of what’s wrong – We haven’t felt as if we’ve mellowed at all… As for the new record, well it’s just a different writing style.

How do the songs come about? Is it words or ideas or music first?

It’s just a big mish-mash really; sometimes it’s easier when you’re playing with friends… sometimes. But again, Beaver is the only guy with any training or musical background so it’s sometimes hard to communicate ideas.

You guys were a driving force behind G7, but you seem to have pulled back from that a bit now. Are there any other projects you guys are involved in back home?

Well, the reason I pulled back from the G7 thing was to do the band full time, and that’s taken up all of 2009, and actually most of 2008 too, so that’ll probably be it until next year. When we’re home, Jord does a lot of organising with the Canadian Haiti Action Network,  he does a lot of stuff in the Refugee Centre down town, Beaver is working on a music programme in a poor area of the city. Also OCAP (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty,) they’re a kick ass organisation.

Your music has always been political in its lyrics and has stayed pretty true to its punk and thrash origins. Punks aren’t necessarily political as we all know – Do you guys ever get stick from crowds for your political beliefs?

Not really; not much anymore. It seems like a lot of those people have been weeded out over the years and they don’t come to shows any more, like back in the nineties, a lot of people were quite aggressive to the things we were saying but thankfully, that died down towards the end of the nineties…

I don’t want to  dwell too much on the past and talk about the Fat Wreck days but do you think there were some bands who hung around that scene who have, effectively, sold out on the political aspect of their music in order to make a quick penny?

The idea of “selling out” is hard because there is a spectrum of compromises you have to make within the framework of a capitalist society, and ones that we have to make sometimes, although we might not like them, but some people have a different zone, where that changes from necessary compromise to a “Sell-Out.” Not everyone agrees with this, but take a band like Rage Against the Machine, they did something worthwhile with what they did with a major label; I don’t think it’s impossible to use ubiquitous media to a large degree and come out with a positive experience. But it’s not for us, none of us has the facility to engage with mass media- We’re just these guys, we’re not well spoken, we play songs that aren’t particularly well received by the general public. Even the things we talk about has the capacity to offend more peoples core values explicitly than say, Rage, so there’d be no point in moving to a bigger label, it’d just be the same people listening to us anyways!

Even moving to Small-Man Records after a very well received album, staying true to your political beliefs and still managing to get to places like Dublin, I have to say, is enheartening! So what’s the next step for Propagandhi?

Go home, get our heads together and start, as far as the band goes, putting together new material to record next year, politically, Jord has his work with the community stuff he’s doing, Beaver has the music programme, and I’ll try and help out somewhere!

So will it be another three years before the next album?

No, I’d hope in perhaps a year and a half…

Fingers crossed!

Yeah, here too!

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