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|From: Irish Political Review: Articles|
|Date: December, 2018|
The 1918 Election And The Traumatised Neo-Redmondites!
The coincidence of the centenary of the 1918 Election with Brexit has cornered many prominent Anglophiles into a kind of intellectual nationalism. The presence of Britain in Europe enabled them to reject the Irish national viewpoint on the world in substance without having to do so in form. Being good Europeans was their way of being British.
But the British decision to withdraw from the EU has left them naked in the world and traumatised them into a kind of Irish nationalism.
While Britain was a participating member of the EU, they never stood for Europe against what Britain was trying to do to it. And, if Britain had not voted for Brexit, we can be sure that their comment on the 1918 Election, if they noticed it at all, would not have been what it is now.
The headline on Fintan O'Toole's comment in the Irish Times (Dec 8) is: "100 years ago this week, in an act of peaceful secession, Irish people chose to be citizens not subjects". And the Irish people "proposed to call into being a new democracy, using the methods of democracy itself".
So how did it happen that the democratically-enacted peaceful secession of Ireland from the British state was followed by a war between the Irish democracy and the British state? O'Toole offers no explanation.
The only possible explanation would have advanced him a bridge too far away from his beloved Britain—the British State would not peacefully accept the peaceful Irish secession, and so the Irish had to fight a war for their independence, just as if they had never voted for it. And so the criticism that was made of the 1916 Insurrection—that it was not mandated democratically—falls away as irrelevant.
But Britain is the home of practical democracy, as France is of democracy as an ideal. So must we say that democratic Britain behaved undemocratically?
Stephen Collins (Irish Times Dec 11) says:
"One of the main reasons why the First Dail and its successor persuaded the British government to grant independence was the pressure of British public opinion, which accepted the legitimacy of Irish national aspirations and was revolted by the government repressive response… British democracy recoiled from such a response…"
But the British democracy was the British Government, elected by a landslide in the 1918 Election. The modern meaning of democracy—the post-Athenian meaning—is that the populace elects a party to govern it. Move away from that meaning and the idea of democracy gets lost in the clouds.
The British populace elected the Lloyd George Coalition, and stood behind it throughout its war on the Irish democracy. The restraining influence on it was that of American opinion—which was not only Irish-American. Britain had reduced itself from a creditor to a debtor state by its spuriously democratic war on Germany and Turkey. America was nudging it into second place and it had to take serious account of strong opinion within America towards it—a thing which it could have brushed aside before August 1914. And it was the successful anti-Treaty rebellion in Turkey that brought down the Lloyd George Coalition in 1922.
British democracy made war on Irish democracy in 1919-21. Democracy is not internationalist. It is essentially a national political system. And Burke, the Whig/Tory who was the founder of British political philosophy for the era of sovereign party-politics around which democracy developed, said he did not know how to indict a whole people.
The United Nations, when drawing up its Universal Declarations, evaded the issue. It invented the category of war-crimes, but did not prosecute the nuclear obliteration of two undefended Japanese cities that were not military obstacles or objectives. The implication was that the actions of democratic states, being in principle actions of the people, were not subject to international law when making war on a state that was not organised democratically. The populace of an undemocratic state may be punished at will by a democratic state.
But that doesn't help us in the case of the war that followed the 1918 Election, which was a war waged by a powerful democracy on a virtually unarmed democracy.
The newly-born nationalists hatched by Brexit still have a lot of figuring out to do, seeing that they are also enthusiasts for Britain's Great War on Germany as an idealistic war for democracy and the rights of small nations.
Stephen Collins observes that—
"The solidarity shown to Ireland by our European partners in in stark contrast to the international response to the First Dail. One of the main objectives of that Dail was to obtain international recognition at the Paris peace conference… However the Irish delegation was given the cold shoulder as the major powers showed solidarity with the British by refusing to countenance the claims for Irish independence…"
50,000 Irish died in the Great War, having been shepherded into it by John Redmond, and presumably killed a great number of Germans and Turkers. And, according to media comment of the past generation, that was a very good thing, because they fought for the freedom of the world and of Ireland. So, how could it have happened that the major Powers, which had fought for those ideals and won, behaved so badly at their post-war Conference?
Obviously because what they had actually fought for was not those ideals. The Irish masses that flocked into the British Army killed, fought and died for an illusion that was dangled before them. The 'Peace Conference' put into effect the actual purpose for which the victors had fought.
The German Government was locked out of the 'Peace Conference' along with the Irish, breaking the precedent of centuries. The Starvation Blockade on Germany was tightened up after the Armistice, and was continued into the Summer of 1919 until the German Republic accepted the terms that were dictated to it.
The Hapsburg state was broken up into nationalities that had never asserted themselves as the Irish had done, and independent 'nation-states' were created that had little regard for national cohesion and that proved not to be viable.
The Ottoman state, which had maintained peace in the Middle East, was broken up and Palestine was opened up to Jewish colonisation at the expense of the native population.
The Italian Government had been drawn into the War with lavish British promises of Austrian territory—which Britain was unwilling to deliver in full in 1919.
And France seized the Alsace-Lorraine region of Germany in an act of irredentism which had been its main reason for war on Germany. But France was prevented by Britain from gaining the security of a Rhine frontier with Germany.
"International response" in 1919 meant little more than British response. Germany and Austria were defeated countries. The Russian state was doing its own thing. The "major powers" were Britain and France, and Britain at the 'Peace Conference' quickly established its ascendancy over France. And Britain, of course, did not recognise the Irish Republic.
The devaluation of the 1918 Sinn Fein vote—begun by Professor Allison Phillips of Trinity at the time and reasserted by Robert Kee in the early 1970s, and regularly repeated in the Irish Times ever since, barely gets a mention now by O'Toole: "Sinn Fein benefited hugely from the Westminster first-past-the-post electoral system—it won nearly three quarters of the Irish seats with just 48 per cent of the vote".
The significant thing about Sinn Fein's failure to gain a majority of the votes is the reason for it: the Redmondites did not contest enough seats for Sinn Fein to get a majority of the votes. In Constituencies where no candidates were fielded against Sinn Fein—and that was about a quarter of them—Sinn Fein got no votes at all.
The result of the Election was not decided by the contested seats, where the main opponent was the Unionist Party. The decisive thing was the demoralisation of Redmondism even before the event, which caused it to let so many seats go by default.
And the cause of the demoralisation?
"…this was a reaction, not just to the Easter Rising… and its transformative effects on public opinion, but to a far greater turmoil: the Great War… It might have been different. John Redmond… could have been seen in retrospect to have placed a successful bet—he had backed the British Empire in 1914 by urging Irishmen to join its armed forces and the empire had won… But this vindication had already turned sour. The 1918 election was decisively shaped by anti-war sentiment."
Why was there a sudden eruption of anti-war sentiment> Because of the 1918 decision to extend British conscription to Ireland, we are told.
Britain was at war to save civilisation from the barbarism of the Hun. The Redmondite ideologues, Tom Kettle and Robert Lynd, said so very forcibly, and only small-minded insular extremists disagreed. But the Hun held out very much longer than was expected. By 1916 volunteering fell short of requirements and compulsion was introduced in Britain.
Then, in the Spring of 1918, there was a strong German offensive in the West, made possible by the peace with Russia. In order to hold the ring until the Americans arrived, it was decided to apply compulsion in Ireland too, where the bad example of the Easter Rising had led to a decline in volunteering. And the Irish, in response, decided to let civilisation go hang!?
Could it possibly have been that there was a growing opinion amongst the Irish that the war was not about saving civilisation at all?
The Christian Brothers, a staunchly Redmondite institution in 1914, and a popular institution in its own right, had noticed that Britain, in the War, was doing the very same thing that it had accused the Germans of when declaring war: invading neutral countries. It invaded neutral Greece, overthrew the Government, and installed a puppet Government which joined it in the War. Tom Kettle apparently did not notice this, but the Christian Brothers did, and said so.
So was it a war to save civilisation, which the Irish withdrew from in 1918, or was it something altogether different? Could it have been what Casement and Connolly described it as being in 1914?
Another factor in the collapse of Redmondism in 1918 is that it was not altogether sudden, or related to the War. The collapse began in 1910 when it lost ten per cent of its seats to the national movement led by Canon Sheehan and William O'Brien, which accused it of turning the Home Rule movement into a Catholic Ascendancy movement, and of driving the country towards Partition. At the second 1910 Election Redmond set the precedent for 1918 by not even contesting the North Cork constituency.
The neo-Redmondites, in their resentment of Brexit, have taken a mini-step away from the Redmondite mythology that they have been constructing into history. In order to take another step they will have to begin refuting themselves.
C O N T E N T S
The 1918 Election And The Traumatised Neo-Redmondites! Editorial
1918 Election: Looking For Authenticity! Donal Kennedy
A High Wire Act. Dave Alvey (December Brexit Summary )
Readers' Letters: Plebiscites And Referendums. John Martin
Border Poll polling: December 'Lucidpoll' confirms No-Deal 'hard' Brexit sway towards a United Ireland. Mark Langhammer
1919 Government Bulletin. Donal Kennedy
LEST WE FORGET (1). Extracts from Irish Bulletin. This issue lists British Acts Of Aggression, 1919-mid April 1920 (ed. Jack Lane)
Es Ahora. Julianne Herlihy (Clair Wills And The Story She Tells. Part 7)
Redmondism Defeated in Waterford. Pat Muldowney. Dr Vincent White and the Ballybricken Pig Buyers!
Readers' Letters: Who Creates Money? Martin Dolphin
Money Supply Revolution. Angela Clifford
The Dublin/Monaghan Bombings, 17 May 1974. John Morgan (Lt. Col., retd.)
Victims Of The British State! Wilson John Haire (Review of Life After Life by Paddy Armstrong)
The Russian Revolution. Brendan Clifford (100th Anniversary, Part 13)
Lemass In The De Valera Era, And A Dillon/Bowen Digression. Manus O'Riordan (Lemass, Part 4)
Biteback: Fr. Michael O’Flanagan and the 1916 Rising. Manus O'Riordan
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (Budget 2019; Academic Independenc
Labour Comment: James Connolly. The Exclusion of Ulster
Forgotten Aspects Of Ireland's Great War On Turkey. 1914-24 by Dr. Pat Walsh. 540pp. Index. ISBN 978-085034-121-8. Athol Books, 2009. €36, £30
The Christian Brothers' History Of The Great War, first published in monthly instalments in 1914-18, edited by Brendan Clifford. 52pp (A4). ISBN 1 874 157 17 0 and 9-781874-15717-5. A Belfast Magazine No.30. Jan. 2007. €10, £8