Archive for the ‘WWI’ Category

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Canterbury Socialist Society presents “Workers Against War” – a public lecture on this history of the Workers’ Movement opposition to the First World War.

Every year ANZAC Day commemorations seem more like war propaganda than the last – and we aim to provide a touch of counter history: that of sedition, desertion, rebellion, refusal, and fraternisation of workers on the front.

We are very pleased to welcome for a second time guest speaker Dan Bartlett. Dan is a historian whose research with Voices Against War focused on New Zealand opposition to the First World War. Dan will be focusing on the activities of Socialists in Christchurch during the war years.

Socialist Society chair Tom Roud will speak on the tension and eventual split in the international workers’ movement over the question of supporting one’s own ruling class in the war. He will be focusing primarily on the (more…)

Rosa Luxemburg, rallying workers for struggle

by Don Franks

In a February 13th interview in The Listener, Public Service Association national secretary Erin Polaczuk makes a valid point: by going on strike, workers may get hurt.

“I remember some strikes. . . and dad losing his job. In the ’90s he was made redundant and survived on his redundancy pay. It terrifies me to think that some people don’t have that backup, so have no way of feeding their families if they lose their jobs. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way things were. Maybe we are in the mature era and the feminisation of the union movement has changed things. We are not guys coming in and having a punch up any more.”

In New Zealand industrial punch ups have sometimes got quite heated, but not to the extent of some overseas confrontations. For example: “During the night two delegates of the railwaymen were arrested. The strikers immediately demanded their release, and as this was not conceded, they decided not to allow trains leave the town. At the station all the strikers with their wives and families sat down on the railway track-a sea of human beings. They were threatened with rifle salvoes. The workers (more…)

Constance de Markievicz, in Irish Citizen Army uniform

by Philip Ferguson

Today (Feb 4) marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the first woman elected to the British parliament! This was in the general election of December 1918, at the end of WW1. And no, she was not a Tory reactionary, but an Irish revolutionary – Constance Markievicz.

She was in jail at the time in London.

She had been second-in-command lof the insurrectionary forces at Stephen’s Green during the 1916 Rebellion in Dublin and, among other things, performed valuable sniper duties; after the surrender she was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death, commuted to penal servitidue for life on account of her being a woman.

The British were subsequently forced to release the prisoners, from the end of 1916 to mid-1917. Considered one of the hardest of the hard-core, she was in the very last group of prisoners to be released, returning to an ecstatic welcome in Dublin.

In May 1918 she was arrested for sedition and again imprisoned in England. It was here that she ran for parliament.

She stood on a platform of independence and radical social change in Ireland and not taking her seat at Westminster if elected.

In that election, 73 seats were won by people who said they wouldn’t take their seat at Westminster if elected.  A majority of them were in prison or ‘on the run’.

(These people won a majority of the seats in (more…)

In the Imperialism study/discussion group at the weekend, Andy H mentioned an introduction to Lenin’s Imperialism by an Australian Marxist.  This is the piece; it was originally written in the late 1990s and first appeared on-line in 2003.

by Doug Lorimer*

I. Lenin’s aims in writing this work

The term “imperialism” came into common usage in England in the 1890s as a development of the older term “empire” by the advocates of a major effort to extend the British Empire in opposition to the policy of concentrating on national economic development, the supporters of which the advocates of imperialism dismissed as “Little Englanders”. The term was rapidly taken into other languages to describe the contest between rival European states to secure colonies and spheres of influence in Africa and Asia, a contest that dominated international politics from the mid-1880s to 1914, and caused this period to be named the “age of imperialism”.

The first systematic critique of imperialism was made by the English bourgeois social-reformist economist John Atkinson Hobson (1858-1940) in his 1902 book Imperialism: A Study, which, as Lenin observes at the beginning of his own book on the subject, “gives a very good and comprehensive description of the principal specific economic and political features of imperialism” (see below, p. 33).

Lenin had long been familiar with Hobson’s book. Indeed, in a letter written from Geneva to his mother in St. Petersburg on August 29, 1904, Lenin stated that he had just “received Hobson’s book on imperialism and have begun translating it” into Russian.(1)

In a number of his writings between 1895 and 1913, Lenin had noted some of the characteristics of the imperialist epoch, for example: the (more…)

As Russia’s political leaders and oligarchs struggle with how to commemorate the centenary of the 1917 workers’ revolution, Auckland actors and activists will be assembling in Karangahape Road on Guy Fawkes’ Day in November for a show that examines the potential and the end of one of the most significant moments of the 20th century.

Reds is a two-hour play by veteran screenplay writer and playwright Dean Parker.  It looks at the events and personalities that shook the world a century ago.

It will be given a reading at the Thirsty Dog, on Karangahape Rd, on Sunday November 5, Guy Fawkes’ Day, 2pm.

Top-line actors Robyn Malcolm (Outrageous Fortune), Stuart Devenie (Braindead), Jennifer Ward-Lealand (Dirty Laundry), Elizabeth McRae (Shortland St), Rachel House (Hunt For The Wilderpeople) and Charlie Bleakly (Scarfies) will be joined by former Greens MP Sue Bradford, Unite Union organisers Mike Treen and Joe Carolan, and Mangere East Community Centre director Roger Fowler.

Robyn Malcolm will be playing the (more…)

Police violence against locked-out workers sparked the formation of a workers’ militia

Constance Markievicz, founder of first republican paramilitary organisation of 1900s and a founding leader of the workers’ militia

 

by Philip Ferguson*

Described by Lenin as the world’s first Red Army, the Irish Citizen Army was formed by members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and other trade unionists in Dublin in August 1913.  Socialist and therefore also republican, the ICA was not, however, the first working class paramilitary organisation to be formed in Ireland in Ireland in the early 1900s.  That honour goes to Fianna Eireann, a predominantly working class youth organisation founded by Constance, Countess Markievicz who would go on to be a key figure in the workers’ militia.

The Fianna

James Larkin and James Connolly

Markievicz, a militant left-wing republican, was moved to form the Fianna in August 1909 for two reasons.

One was that, while new to Irish republicanism – she had thrown herself into it just the year before – she had already decided that any serious political movement for Irish freedom would, sooner or later, have to confront Britain in arms.  Her reading of Irish history had taught her that if you built a serious political movement, at some point the British state would confront you with its military force.  Unless you were armed and prepared to fight, your movement would end in ignominy, confusion and demoralisation.

The other reason – and this was the immediate factor in the formation of the Fianna – was the arrival of Baden-Powell in Ireland to start an Irish wing of his boy scouts movement.  Markievicz noted that his aim was to get Irish youth to support the British empire and oppose the liberation of their own country and their own class, the working class.  Her and friends such as Helena Moloney went recruiting for na Fianna in working class areas of Dublin.

Having come from the aristocracy, Markievicz knew about shooting and had a great interest in things military.  She wrote the Fianna handbook, taught the boys to drill and to shoot and, later, how to blow things up.  The Fianna were also sent out to rough up the Boy Scouts.  This ‘ruffianism’ was guided by two ideas: (more…)