Early this morning we received an e-mail from Mr. Tom Laney, a retired UAW worker involved in the American Auto Worker Ownership Committee effort to organize autoworkers to purchase the Big Three automakers on their own behalf instead of working for the exclusive benefit of others. The e-mail contained a link to a video of the song "James Connolly," performed by "Charlie and the Bhoys," accompanying footage of a reenactment of the Easter Rising of 1916 at the General Post Office in Dublin.
We were already familiar with the song, and more familiar with the history. Connolly, head of the socialist Irish Citizen Army, had achieved a tentative alliance with the Irish Volunteers. Michael Collins, comparing Connolly to Patrick Pearse (first provisional president of the Irish Republic), said that Connolly was a realist while Pearse was the idealist. This was perhaps due to the fact that Pearse had a vision of an Irish Republic born out of the willing sacrifice of the Volunteers, symbolically choosing Easter as the date of the Rising for that reason, while Connolly sought the destruction of the capitalist system and the establishment of a socialist republic, preferably without having to die himself.
Pearse framed the struggle as Irish nationalism against British oppression, while Connolly characterized it as labor v. capital. Unfortunately, the leaders listened to Connolly when developing their strategy for taking over Dublin, and Connolly was convinced that the capitalists would never use artillery in putting down a rebellion, thereby running the risk of damaging or destroying their own property. This led him into the belief that simply holding out as long as possible would give the combined IRC and the IV a victory.
Consequently, the rebels concentrated their forces at the General Post Office, a militarily insignificant target in the center of town on the main street (Sackville Street, later renamed O'Connell Street, after the Great Emancipator, Dan O'Connell), leaving Dublin Castle and the various communication companies and utilities either abandoned or in the hands of the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) or the army. A key point in the Irish strategy was reliance on the assumption that the British were tied down in France and couldn't spare troops to put down a rebellion in Ireland. By concentrating their forces and assuming incorrectly that artillery would not be used, however, the rebels made it relatively easy for the British to win with much fewer troops than otherwise.
The rebels were rounded up and taken off to prison through the streets of Dublin, during which the people cursed them, even threw garbage at them. One of the men recalled years later asking the man marching beside him if he thought the British would let them go. The other man replied, "God, I hope not." What changed the opinion of most of the Irish (and even many English) were the secret executions of the leaders, including Connolly, who was already dying. The executions were carried out over the personal protests of King George V, as well as many members of parliament and leading public figures, and announced afterwards.
This outraged the public that, up to then, had been almost uniformly condemning the rebels. The executions were immediately construed as revenge rather than justice, and even today's modern English commentators say it would have been much better to let the leaders lie forgotten in jail, letting what little public support they enjoyed die away over time.
The only leader not executed was an obscure professor of mathematics named Edward (later Eamon) de Valera, an American with an Irish mother and a Spanish father who had failed to formally renounce his American citizenship before joining the rebellion. The British were at this time desperate for American aid for the war in Europe, and didn't execute de Valera. This gave the rebels a single leader to rally around instead of sixteen, ensuring unity at a critical time.
Our recent proposals to the Dáil and Seanad of Ireland, found under the heading "Irish Economics," offer an economically and financially — and peaceful — way to achieve the major goals of the Easter Rising of 1916, with the exception of the establishment of a socialist (or, for that matter, capitalist) republic. Capital Homesteading and the Abraham Federation offer a framework for lasting peace that transcends the usual demands for people to give up everything and gain nothing.