The Easter Rising of 1916 and the October Revolution of 1917

Irish republicans, like the Bolsheviks in Russia, turned the imperialist war of 1914-18 into a civil war against the hated imperialist rulers.

Gerry MacLochlainn, prominent Irish republican, relates the significance of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, Ireland, which was a pivotal moment in the struggle of the Irish people for independence from British imperialism.

Speaking in Saklatvala Hall, Southall, at a meeting of the CPGB-ML to celebrate the 99th anniversary of the October Revolution, Gerry says that both the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia 1917 and the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland were part of the same great worldwide anti-imperialist struggle to free the working peoples of all countries from the pernicious grip of imperialism.

“The October Revolution and the Easter Rising were two of the most seismic events in humanity’s struggle for liberation.”

Both Easter 1916 and October 1917, he says, came as a result of the great upswing in the socialist movement during the preceding years, and the heightened interimperialist contradictions that had led to the charnel house of WW1 – in which some 40 million working men were slaughtered so that the imperialist nations could decide which was to have the greatest share of the superprofits that came from the exploitation of labour-power and domination of the world’s territory and economy.

“Connolly, like Lenin, was one of only a handful of socialist leaders who stood firm to the prewar position that socialists must oppose imperialist war and turn it into a civil war for socialism. The Irish Citizen Army was Europe’s first red army.”

Easter 1916, although suppressed by the British, electrified the Irish nation and brought a new phase in the liberation struggle, even though that itself ultimately resulted in Irish partition, and the struggle of Ireland to free itself from British domination remains incomplete.

“Connolly warned that partition would lead to a carnival of reaction on both sides of the border. We have had to live with the consequences of that ever since. I grew up under a vicious sectarian regime in the north. I wanted to be a schoolteacher. Instead I had to fight.”

“We are still in struggle although it has changed its form. Ireland has the right to independence and Britain had never had any right to any part of Ireland.”

Gerry thanked the comrades assembled for standing by the republican struggle, and told them how even when he was a prisoner of war in British jails, he knew there were British workers who stood with them, despite the hysterical pitch of the anti-Irish, and anti-republican propaganda. Generations of liberation fighters have found themselves passing through Brixton prison.

Gerry talked fondly of the great history of internationalist solidarity between Irish liberation fighters and other liberation struggles through the ages, and the inspiration he himself drew from the US civil rights struggle, the Vietnamese people’s anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle for liberation, and from the anti-colonial fighters in India, Palestine and elsewhere.

It was the IRA (Irish Republican Army), for example, which supplied Indian martyr Shaheed Udham Singh with the pistol to shoot dead British General ‘Sir’ Michael O’Dwyer, who in 1919 ordered the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre, killing 2,000 Indian civilians in order to send their countrymen the message that ‘Britain would never quit India’.

Above all, internationalism is key to the emancipation of the working class from capitalist slavery, he says, and ends his speech, as he began it, quoting James Connolly‘s words:

“Let us not shrink from the consequences. This may mean more than a transport strike, it may mean armed battling in the streets to keep in this country the food for our people. But whatever it may mean it must not be shrunk from.

“It is the immediately feasible policy of the working-class democracy, the answer to all the weaklings who in this crisis of our country’s history stand helpless and bewildered crying for guidance, when they are not hastening to betray her.

“Starting thus, Ireland may yet set the torch to a European conflagration that will not burn out until the last throne and the last capitalist bond and debenture will be shrivelled on the funeral pyre of the last warlord.” (Our duty in this crisis, 1914)