Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916

Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Belfast 1932

Working class Protestants have not always been found wanting in joining in class solidarity against the Orange state. The Belfast Outdoor Relief Strike of 1932 saw Protestant & Catholic workers rebel against the Stormont regime's crippling measures that were used to deal with unemployment. In fact the Unionist ruling class had retained the most draconian legislation from the Victorian Poor Laws to assault the poor.

In the wake of the global economic depression of the 1930's following the Wall Street crash, the usual emmigration safety valve was no longer a viable option for the Stormont regime to promote. Lead by Big House Unionism the Stormont regime decided to hammer unemployed workers into the ground with strict & prohibitive 'means tests' introduced. The hierarchy of Orangeism were prepared to let their 'lesser' co-religionists starve alongside the 'undeserving' Catholic poor!

Class solidarity spread with strikes & marches to the Board of Workhouse Guardians. The following is an account of the situation in Belfast in 1932:

" That night rioting broke out in several places. A tram was hijacked and dozens of shops were looted in the main Catholic and Protestant areas. The RUC baton charged the crowds as soon as they formed. The rioting continued for the rest of the week.The local ruling class and Unionist establishment suddenly realised the seriousness of what was happening. They had nothing against rioting, they had organised many anti-Catholic pogroms themselves. What was occurring on the streets was very different, it was the one thing they feared - working class unity "
Although that class solidarity did not last, it is one example of economic necessity breaking the Orange state's hegomonic grip on the Protestant working class. 'Orangeism' was the means by which the ruling Stormont monolithic Unionist (& Conservative Party) divided the proletariat in the North of Ireland for their own longterm political interests. They regularly played the 'Orange Card' to prevent unrest from 'below' & to divert Protestant working class discontent. It was a card trick that their Imperialist overlords had perfected & handed down over the years.
The most fundamental leap of faith that Loyalists need to make is that they were workingclass people used by the ruling class as 'contras' in Brit counter-insurgency strategy. If they accept that then they must know that they were totally expendable & in return they got only marginal privledges.

Somewhere within Loyalism I believe that theres the realisation that the old adage that the "rich always betray the poor' is true. Whether they develop that into something resembling class-consciousness is still up in the air. During the various 'Drumcree crises', some elements within Loyalism were reluctant to be led by the nose by the Grand Old Duke of York Paisley & Orangeism like they were in the past as I believe there was the flicker of a realisation that they would be used as totally expendable 'shock troops' yet again. Although there's also the variable that their actions were/are directed by Brit overall security strategy.

They have a long way to go thats for sure but I think we all have to some extent...

“If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle., unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs!” (James Connolly, from Socialism and Nationalism in the Shan Van Vocht, 1897)

"To subvert the tyranny of our execrable government, to break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils and to assert the independence of my country- these were my objectives. To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter - these were my means." (Theobald Wolfe Tone - Founding father of Irish Republicanism)

“Our freedom must be had at all hazards. If the men of property will not help us they must fall; we will free ourselves by the aid of that large and respectable class of the community - the men of no property.” ( Theobald Wolfe Tone)

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