I mean ... I’ll send you an advance draft of the books for you to see because I haven’t got them here. What is interesting is when the first meeting that’s held in Westport by Davitt, he compares the situation with Mayo peasants to the Kaffirs in South Africa to the Indians ... He’s making very, very definite links, but the reason my book finishes off in 1885 is that’s when the Tories take over. It’s the arrival of absolute high Imperialism. The British state has found a method to bottle up New Unionism and to defeat the home rule movement, the two things are bottled up there. But it’s exactly then that Connolly emerges and Connolly has a critique of Imperialism right from the beginning when there’s the 1898 hundred year centenary of the 1798 ... There he is organising a march through the streets of Dublin with a black coffin, British Imperialism, with a mention of all the deaths of Indians and the famine ... (inaudible) ... He has a very strong anti-Imperialist thing there. You’re right, people like Luxemburg in 1898 is also making first comments against Imperialism and is the first on the international left to theorise it. Lenin’s much later in theorising it. But Connolly is there just ... (inaudible) ... and setting up the Irish Republican Socialist Party, that’s just ... Where’s that come from? Actually, people originally think he’s going across to set up a branch of the ILP in Dublin. He just doesn’t do that, he goes for the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the first fight he’s on India so that anti-Imperialism is there from that early, early date and it’s obviously something that Maclean very much relates to as well, his break up the British Empire perspective on ... So that Imperialism is there but for the vast majority of the Labour Movement, the trade union movement, the period of high Imperialism is just mass accommodation to all of these things. The one exception I suppose being the support for the Boer War but you don’t ... the Boers in that war ... But you do have a sneaking suspicion it’s because they’re white, rather than anything else. But you see by 1905, the TUC (Trades Union Congress) is backing the Aliens Act directly against Jewish workers so that’s just a handful of small unions that take a different position there. So yeah, the British Labour Movement is absolutely swamped by Imperialism, but there are people holding out against that and Connolly’s one of them.

  • Allan Armstrong
Tuesday 25th May 2010