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Revolution in Ireland: Popular Militancy 1917 to 1923
Revolution in Ireland: Popular Militancy 1917 to 1923

Our Price:39.00
Authors: Conor Kostick
Affiliation: teaches History in Trinity College Dublin.
Publication Year: Hardback 2009
Pages: 248
Size: 234 x 156mm

ISBN: 9781859184486


Revolution in Ireland is an engaging and highly original account of the War of Independence, with a focus on the trade union movement, but with analysis of the major figures and political parties of the years 1917 – 1923.

It details the extraordinary militancy of the working class across all thirty-two counties and discusses in depth events such as the Limerick Soviet of 1919. It stresses the large scale and considerable impact of mass action and labour activism, challenging traditional interpretations that focus almost exclusively on the role of armed groups. There is a full account of the strikes, factory occupations and land seizures that shook Irish society. It details popular involvement in the struggles of those years, paying particular attention to the socialist and trade union movement. This revised edition consists of a comprehensive rewrite that updates the work in the light of recent publications and the release of new archive materials. In particular, this new edition includes new eyewitness accounts from the archives of the Bureau of Military History including the testimony of notable trade union activists, an extension of the account of the mutiny of the Connaught Rangers (28 June 1920), and extra information on Michael Collins' intelligence system.

After reading this book, there can be no doubt about the importance of the working class movement in the struggle for independence, but why didn't the enormous scale of popular revolt lead to a strong Labour or Communist party in Ireland? Kostick attempts to answer this question with a close examination of the political debates in the workers' movement.

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5 of 5 The two books under review are in some ways closel January 10, 2011
Reviewer: Bill Anderson Australian Journal of Irish Studies from Republic of Ireland  
The two books under review are in some ways closely related. Kostick  in his book on popular working class militancy presents a detailed  analysis of the political left in Ireland during the years 1917 to 1923  whereas Charlie McGuire s biography of Roddy Connolly examines the  life primarily the political life of one of the major revolutionary  socialists during these and later years. Both books are well written and  both add substantially to our knowledge and understanding of the Irish  Left. Both writers are active politically and Kostick  in particular  makes  a point of drawing the reader s attention to the fact that his book is   written with the intensity and enthusiasm that an active socialist brings  to a subject of this nature . Arguably this is more information than a  writer owes to his readers and is perhaps a somewhat surprising  announcement from a professional academic. This is not to deny the  value of Kostick s book  which has much to commend it.  Revolution in Ireland: Popular Militancy 1917 1923 is the second  edition of a book first published in 1996. The author notes in the  Preface to this new edition that  most of the changes for this edition are  therefore of a minor nature  such as improvements to sentence structure  and other grammatical alterations . The new edition does contain some  new material particularly Bureau of Military History interviews with  veterans of the struggle for independence  1913 1921  first released to  the public in 2003  additional material on the mutiny of the Connaught  Rangers in 1920 and  a small elaboration  of his description of  Michael  Collins  intelligence system   in this material I noted that Ned Broy is  described as  a typist   he was in fact a detective sergeant with the  Dublin Metropolitan Police and later held high office including  Commissioner of Gardai and President of the Olympic Council of  Ireland  . Whether those readers who purchased the first volume   which received a great deal of critical acclaim will consider this new  material a sufficient attraction to purchase this new edition will  I  suppose  depend on individual readers  financial resources.  There is no doubt that Kostick s book contains a great deal of  interesting information some of this information is available in other  published sources but Kostick deserves credit for the industry and  research skills that he has invested in unearthing much information that  was previously  lost  to the history of the period. I enjoyed reading this  book and found much of the information that he presents fascinating  and instructive. I was  I must admit  less impressed by his polemics and  editorialising  although I recognise that given my own partisan writings  on the Irish Left that I can be accused of  the pot calling the kettle  black    I was somewhat puzzled by his comment on the changes that he  has made to this edition when he writes that now  2009   the trained historian in me is less inclined to offer  judgements with regard to the strategy and tactics of the  left  but  as I find myself still in agreement with my  original analysis  I ve let the discussion more or less stand  as it did in 1996.  This seems somewhat circuitous.  Kostick s analysis is best summed up in his own words. In his  penultimate chapter  Syndicalism and civil war  he presents his basic  analysis with clarity and precision  Irish workers did fight hard in these years. That they were  ultimately defeated is less the result of any objective  considerations arising from the social structure of Ireland  at the time than the simple fact that their leaders betrayed  them and that the weakness of revolutionary organisation  prevented them finding new ones.  A radical and swinging critique if ever I read one. By  objective  considerations  I would assume he means such things as the fact that  Ireland was essentially a rather conservative staunchly Roman Catholic  country  Kostick himself notes that  Whereas there had been one priest  per 3 000 people in 1840  there was one for every 211 in 1911   a  country  moreover  which had never  except in parts of the North East   particularly Belfast  undergone an industrial revolution and hence had a  small  but militant  industrial working class. Socialist revolution was  never going to be likely in Ireland and it is rather unfair to castigate the  men and women who committed  and sometimes lost  their lives to the  struggle to establish a Socialist Worker s Republic in Ireland.  While he is rather cavalier in his criticisms of the Irish Left 1917 23  Kostick does praise and justifiably so Charlie McGuire s book on  Roddy Connolly noting that it  makes a very important contribution to  our understanding of the thinking of the revolutionary socialists of the  era . This is certainly true. MacGuire s book is indeed an important and  very fine contribution to Irish historiography.  McGuire  who has a background as an active trade unionist in  Ireland and is currently a history researcher at the University of Teeside   does not intend his work to be a traditional biography his focus is on  Roddy s political contribution and development and there is only  passing note of his  private life  and personal characteristics. Having  said this  by reading between the lines  as it were  one can  with a little  effort  build up a picture of the man that Roddy Connolly was and this  added to rather than detracted from the book.  It was as a stripling of fifteen Roddy  armed with a .22 rifle  presented to him by his father  and recently promoted to the rank of  lieutenant in the Republican youth organisation  the Fianna  made a  dramatic start to his own struggle for Irish freedom. Roddy marched  with the main contingent to the GPO on Easter Monday and acted as an  aide de camp to both his father and to Padraig Pearse. He was thus at  the centre of the action until he was asked to leave the GPO and deliver  a suitcase of important documents to William O Brien  from the Irish  Transport and General Workers Union. It is probably no coincidence  that Connolly decided to send his son out of the GPO on the day that the  building started to come under a fierce shelling.  McGuire describes how throughout all the years that followed  Roddy attempted to follow in his father s political footsteps. He joined  the Socialist Party of Ireland  founded and led by his father  in 1917   made a number of dangerous and secretive visits to the Soviet Union   where he frequently met and was hugely influenced by Lenin   played  the leading role in forming the Communist Party of Ireland in 1921   fought in the Irish Civil War on the Republican side  helped found and  lead the Workers Party of Ireland in 1926  joined the Labour Party in  1928  again founded and led by his father  helped organise and lead  Republican Congress in 1934  was imprisoned twice in 1935 and  thereafter rose through the ranks of the Labour Party being elected as  both a TD  representing Louth   a Senator and Chairman of the party.  MacGuire is critical of Roddy s move away from socialist revolution  to democratic socialism  but Roddy surely can t be faulted for trying   indeed the influence he had on the Irish Left and the left wing of the  IRA when he was still a very young man speaks volumes for his ability  and cannot be explained away as being based purely on being his  father s son. MacGuire writes well and presents a painstakingly detailed  account of Roddy s political life it is a fascinating story  well worth  the reading. Although the author does not devote much attention to  Roddy the man as opposed to Roddy the politician he does in  conclusion pose and attempt to answer the question  How will Roddy  Connolly be remembered  thus:  He is remembered by his many friends and associates as a  lifelong socialist who did not abandon his political  principles. As a political activist  Connolly is certainly  deserving of respect. He slogged his way through sixty  years of socialist  communist and Labour initiatives  in a  quite self sacrificing manner. He did not give up the  struggle like many of his fellow activists and neither did  he use politics as a route towards personal or financial  advancement   The Roddy Connolly that emerges from this fine book was a  courageous  highly intelligent  politically committed and thoroughly  decent man his father would have been proud of him.

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  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 Conor Kostick makes a valuable contribution to any March 8, 2010
Reviewer: Tintean The Australian Irish Heritage Network from Republic of Ireland  
Conor Kostick makes a valuable contribution to any analysis of the struggles for freedom in Ireland and redresses the usual omission of the part played by Irish workers in these struggles

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