Tuesday, July 06, 2004


The Irish Labour Movement

Funnily enough I came across the quote below in Ireland Since the Famine by F.S.L. Lyons, while reading the sections relating to the Irish labour movement.

One of the founders of that movement James Connolly placed Desmoulin's aphorism at the head of one of his manifestos.

Referring to the struggles led by the other great founder of the movement, Jim Larkin, Lyons remarks that "[s]ometimes...these strikes were disastrous, sometimes they were relatively successful. But for Larkin the essential point was that his union was beginning to give the most down-trodden of the workers a sense of identity and of self-respect".

And human dignity and self-repect must of course be the ultimate goals driving any socialist project - that is why socialism would not be made irrelevent by the mere absence of poverty, though it must entail such an absence. In Ireland today capitalism - not unaided by the welfare state, of course - has delivered material prosperity to a degree unimaginable at the turn of the last century, when one-third of Dublin's population lived in slums - the worst slum conditions in the entire United Kingdom, as it then was.

But man, remember, cannot live on bread alone. Lyons indicates that Larkin fully recognised this, quoting playwright Sean O'Casey's observation of him:

"Here was a man who would put a flower in a vase on a table as well as a loaf on a plate"

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