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A Letter From Ireland

Our "Friend from Across the Water” (as the Otoe, Indian tribe of "native Americans" rechristened Eamon De Valera, during his recent tour of the U.S.) has indeed been at all times only too anxious to prove himself a “friend in need, a friend indeed” for the industrial-capitalist class of Eire. And now he’s off again, campaigning against the Partition of Ireland, but still in the service of his same old masters. This man who, as you well know, is boosted as the indefatigable opponent of everything anti-Republican in Ireland; this man who resolutely stood out against the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty in 1921 and, when all else failed, took “arms against a sea of troubles” ; this man who tenaciously stuck to his guns and his Republican principles—this man is actually non-existent, he’s a figment of the imagination.

Wasn’t it “Dev." who declared fearlessly at Newry, "north of the border,’’ in 1918, that he was “ready to blast the North out of his path”? And, again, in 1919, to an American newspaper correspondent:

    “If the Paris Conference fails to take steps to extend self-determination to Ireland, violence will he the only alternative left to Irish patriots. This will mean something like continued revolution until Ireland’s rights are recognised.” (Times, London, March 13th, 1919.)

"Fighting words," you say? Perhaps. Though let me remind you that those were “fighting days.” However, let’s skip, for the moment, all that happened afterwards and come to the year 1946. In that year, in our parliament, “An Dail,” a certain man made a speech. Among other things, he said:

    “The Border can only be done away with when the majority in the North decide of their own free will to come in and join us, without any coercion or compulsion whatever, and if any coercion or compulsion was used to bring them in I would he the first to oppose it.”

Yes, it was - "Dev." When you’re in, you’re in; when you’re out, it’s another story. See? And now that “Dev’s.” out he’s been telling another story—the Newry story. To an audience in Chicago during his recent American tour, he said:

    “If we get assistance the day will not be far off when we will have not twenty-six counties (Eire) but thirty-two.” (Press, March 21st, 1948.)

Now I ask you—can you beat it?

For sixteen years, remember, he wielded the power of a continental political dictator—he commanded the whole forces of the Irish State—and for sixteen years this great man, who was destined (“they’’ said) to fulfil the "1916 dream" of Irish Republicans, sat on his backside and lifted not a finger to bring any nearer that “glorious day.” What a man ! And what a game !

And now, in Britain, no less than the U.S. and Ireland, he’s once more donned the cloak of the Irish Republican Moses, and is rearing to storm the Stormont citadel in the North and lead his people to the wonderful Promised Land, “the Republic.” However, the above statements surely show, if nothing else, the utter disregard of principles which characterises this much-inflated personality, Eamon De Valera.

“For the Irish Republic! For national independence!”—remember the inspiring phrases which so intoxicated the Irish working man and woman? In the meantime, though, De Valera and his crowd were getting on with the real, down-to-earth job of attempting to establish the supremacy of the Irish manufacturers and industrialists. That was their goal.

Yes, history does record that De Valera was indeed the leader of the anti-Treatyites when the so-called split took place in the Irish Republican movement (Sinn Fein) over the signing of the Treaty in ’21. But did this division arise over some fundamental difference between those for and against that Treaty? Did it divide those involved into “for the Republic” and “against it”? And was there, from now on, an impassable gulf between these two sections? To all three questions the answer is a very simple “no”! The split over the Treaty was, in fact, no more than a fake split It didn't occur because the terms of that Treaty were such as to make manifest two irreconcilable principles within Sinn Fein. All that took place then was merely a disagreement between two sections of one negotiating side over the terms of the bargain struck, but, as a matter of fact, neither of these two sections were opposed to the conclusion of such a Treaty. Both accepted the basic conditions laid down by Lloyd George for the British Government.

From the official correspondence between the British Government, and Sinn Fein which preceded the actual Treaty conference of 1921 (published by the British Government, Command Paper 1470, 1921), I quote the following:

    "September 12, 1921. De Valera to Lloyd George: declaring Sinn Fein’s willingness “to enter a conference to ascertain how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire can best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations.”

(“Reconciled,” mark you! The Republican virgin was going to lie down with the Imperialist profligate . . Kathleen ni Houlihan!)

    September, 29,1921. Lloyd George to De Valera: ‘‘There is no purpose to be served by any further interchange of explanatory and argumentative communications upon the subject. The position taken up by H.M. Government is fundamental to the existence of the British Empire, and they cannot alter it.”

    September 30, 1921. De Valera accepts : "Our respective positions have been stated and are understood. . .”

So much for the alleged Republicanism of De Valera. But the whole tragedy was that this fiction was a not unimportant contributory cause of the Civil War which followed the signing of the Treaty. For the best part of that following two years, brother slayed brother. You well know all that. And what did these men and women—the men and women who did the fighting—get out of it? But need I ask you that? You know they got nothing. Why, even the victors got little more than the vanquished: a pittance and some medals. They weren’t invited to the “Irish Free State banquet” which followed, although it was they who provided all the good things that were spread on the table. That historic banquet is now celebrated annually by a few, at functions known as “annual company meetings.” But those who were once the soldiers at the front are now no more than the wage slaves in the rear. Some of these soldiers, as you may be aware, are lying in the re-named Dublin Workhouse, St. Kevins, as I write, and—perhaps—are fondling their medals and certificates of ‘‘I was there.”

After the Civil War, Fianna Fail was formed, in 1926, with “Dev.” at its head. Yes, he forgave and forgot, accepted and recognised the Government that derived its legitimate authority from the 1921 Treaty, and prepared to battle for political power. During the years that preceded his 1932 victory he and his party were always ready and willing to barter, to sell their support and the votes they commanded for a share in the governing and administering of the new, up-and-coming Irish capitalist exploitation of the Irish people. And they were not loath to offer their allegiance to their “bitterest enemies” either, the so-called pro-Treatyites. Shortly before the 1927 elections, when the leader of the “pro-Treaty Government” in power then; Cosgrave, declared: “I am prepared to forgive and forget,” Sean Lemass, for “Dev’s ” party, replied:

    “We are prepared to forgive . . .  If he wants a political truce with Fianna Fail he can have it tomorrow.” (The Republic, September 17th, 1927.)

See how they trick you!

The wide gulf that separated the “friends of the Republic” from the “enemies of the Republic” wasn’t so very wide after all. In point of fact, it just didn’t exist. It was as imaginary .as “Dev’s” compact morocco-bound, Oxford dictionary, Republic or his own “100 per cent. Republicanism.” One side was as wide awake as the other on the desirability, and resulting advantages, of building-up a native capitalism. That is the plain fact. They merely differed as to the means to employ to achieve that end. In such conflicts the workers have nothing at stake. The interest of the worker is to dispense with his chains, not fight over who shall rivet them.

Today, Irish working men and women are in the same old boat. Yes, the old tramp, the coffin-ship of millions, capitalism; the only difference being that now, in Ireland, there’s a Republican master at the helm. But wage-slavery for the majority continues—now, in the Republic, as much as before it. De Valera or Costello—either name spells capitalism and exploitation of the mass of the Irish people!

Let me quote once more. From an old article on the Sinn Fein movement in the Socialist Standard:

    “What part can the Irish workers, devoid of capital, take in the Industrial Revival except the toiling part? All those revivals are useless to the worker until he owns the product of his toil, then he will be able to enjoy to the full all the advantages to be obtained. So long as private property is the order of the day it matters little to the property less Irish worker (the vast mass of the Irish population) who rules Ireland.” (June, 1917.)

It’s a far cry from 1948 to 1917 but the foregoing is every bit as applicable now as it was then.

And now “Dev.” and Costello, and the other “great Irish leaders,” are hitting the headlines with speeches railing against Partition in Ireland. Well, in conclusion, let me say that we Socialists in Ireland equally desire, and ceaselessly work for, the ending of Partition, also—but we never get any headlines in the Press. Oh, no; for the Partition we speak against is not a geographical one but an economic one. The Partition we oppose is that between the rich and poor, between the capitalist class and the working class. That is the Partition, a universal one, which Socialists everywhere seek to abolish, and that I suggest, is the only Partition which you, and all other workers, ought to concentrate on and bend all your efforts towards removing.

National boundaries may be altered—may even disappear—but such re-arrangements of things geographical can in no way abolish, or even lessen, the poverty of the many. The solution to that problem will not be found by struggling for Empires or Republics (whether of the 26- or 32-County variety), but by striving for the World Socialist Commonwealth.

So—Yours for Socialism,

CHRIS WALSH

(Dublin Socialist Group)