Why we won’t celebrate the anniversary of the Irish Free State.

It has been 95 years since the formation of the Irish Free State, but the event has an uneasy presence in Irish history, particularly for the radical Left. Kieran Allen, author of ‘1916: Ireland’s Revolutionary Tradition’ and ‘The Politics of James Connolly’, considers why the event that began the process of unraveling the British empire will not be met with fanfare.  

Following the massive centenary anniversary of the 1916 rebellion – comprised of exhibitions, parades and revisions to the school syllabus – it is prudent to ask: will there be a similar celebration of the formation of the Irish Free State? The answer: unlikely.

Almost 95 years ago, on January 16th 1922, the British garrison at Dublin Castle handed michael-collins-dublin-castleover its keys to the IRA guerrilla leader, Michael Collins. The castle had long been a symbol of British rule in Ireland and the transfer of its administration was warmly welcomed by the Irish people. The story goes that the colonial officer in charge of the handover to Collins complained that he was seven minutes late, to which Collins retorted ‘we have been waiting over 700 years’. This display of boldness and its place in the Irish historical imaginary is typical of Ireland’s sanctifying of Collins. A mood of romance and dynamism follows Collins, oft-contrasted with Eamon De Valera; the ‘Irish Machiavelli’. Though the inclusion of the oath of allegiance to the British monarchy in the Anglo-Irish treaty is cited as the reason behind the subsequent civil war, it is implied that the clash of these two personalities led to the subsequent civil war.

These folk tales of Irish history hide a much deeper tragedy. In reality, the vote for the Treaty by a majority of Sinn Fein representatives in the Second Dáil and subsequent formation of an Irish free state was the point at which the Irish revolutionary process was buried. Continue reading

Staff Reading List 2016

At times it has been a slog, but in between the countless celebrity deaths, horrifying election results and humanitarian crises, we published some books that might be an antidote to the year Gary Lineker became a principal figure on the Left.

Ranging from undercover investigations in call centres, to the Communist Avant-Garde;  from ethnography and biography to photography, raise a cup of kindness for our staff picks of 2016!

 

Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres by Jamie Woodcock

Selected by Chris Browne, Marketing Executivewoodcock-t03174

My favourite Pluto book of the year was Jamie Woodcock’s Working the Phones. Jamie is a funny and engaging speaker (check out this video of his talk at Waterstones last month) and conveys this in his written work as well.

Having spent several months working ‘undercover’ in the nightmarish world of the high pressure call centre, he is able to skillfully blend theory and ethnography into a book that is both illuminating and enjoyable. For the many people out there (nearly 4% of the UK’s working population) who have direct experience of working in a call centre, reading Working the Phones may be something of a busman’s holiday; for the rest of us, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the people whose incessant phone calls we constantly try to evade.

Check out the Working the Phones website here for more info on the book.

 

Chaplin Machine Slapstick, Fordism and the Communist Avant-Garde by Owen Hatherley

Selected by Melanie Patrick, Design ManagerTimothy’sBook(B)AW

This is a really unique account of how Constructivism — from Weimar Germany to the USSR — was hugely influenced American slapstick cinema. It’s a really surprising book, as obviously this love of comedy is not something you’d expect. So it’s packed with film footage of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, constructivist posters, art and architecture. The cover was so tricky to work on as we had to combine all these themes in one design, but David Pearson did a brilliant job, so I hope as well as being a fascinating account, it’s also something for people to treasure for years to come. It’s the first hardback we’ve done with coloured endpapers, which give a lovely flash of red as you open the book.

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‘Even the President of the United States has to stand naked’: Trump Strips America’s Corrupt Democracy

‘How Corrupt is Britain?’ edited by David Whyte is a collection of powerful and punchy essays that shine a light on the corruption embedded in UK politics, policing and finance. In this article,  David Whyte extends his study of corruption to the U.S., turning his eye to President – Elect Trump’s recent appointments and the continued love affair between the U.S. government and private interests.

Donald Trump’s pitch to the people on the eve of the election in November was that only he could overturn the “years of sordid corruption” in the Washington establishment.   But his earliest appointments are beginning to line up like a familiar identification parade of establishment crooks.

His nominee as Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, a company currently embroiled in a major Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation for publishing false reports about its assets.  The ‘white nationalist’ Steve Bannon, appointed as White House chief strategist has been exposed for channeling millionaire donor funds through a ‘charity’ to fund his work for the extreme right-wing Breitbart News. nude-trump-1  And Trump’s newly crowned head of manufacturing, is Andrew Leveris, the CEO of Dow Chemicals who was also investigated by the SEC for fraud, although the case has apparently now been concluded.  Perhaps the icing on the cake is the appointment of the climate change-denying corporate lawyer Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

But the alleged frauds that tie those appointments together is really not the headline story.  The headline story is that, perhaps unsurprisingly, they all have a long track record of rabidly opposing any regulation that gets in the way of business.

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Trump’s Electoral Victory Signals Dangerous Turn in Capitalism by Peter Hudis

The freedom movements in the U.S., and indeed around the world, have been dealt a serious blow with the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. This is one moment when “staring the negative in the face” without succumbing to either despair or superficial explanations of the reason for his election becomes especially important.trump-1

It is worth keeping in mind that Trump’s victory,
serious as it is, hardly constitutes a
mandate, given that Clinton obtained almost two million more popular votes than Trump. And this was despite widespread voter suppression in many states, where tens of thousands—especially African Americans and poor whites—were denied their right to vote (we can hardly consider it a “democracy” when some need to travel 50 miles to find a voting booth—which only seems to happen in areas that don’t vote Republican). Nevertheless, Trump will continue to proceed as though he has a mandate, and that is very serious business. One reason he can get away with this is that the Republican establishment that earlier denounced him over fear that he would wreck the party are now embracing him for delivering every branch of government into their hands.

Nothing would be more shortsighted than to think that Trump will prove to be the Syriza of the Right—that is, that he will disappoint his followers by accommodating to the neoliberal status quo and carrying out business as usual. He means what he says, and his cabinet appointees—which place outright neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the most powerful institutions in the land—provide ample proof of that. Given the magnitude of the events, it is worthwhile to underline the following…

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The Colombian Peace Accords by Jasmin Hristov

The Colombian government and leftist Farc rebels have signed a revised peace agreement to end more than 50 years of conflict, following the negative vote on a referendum for peace in September. In this article, written exclusively for the Pluto blog, Jasmin Hristov examines the results of the referendum and asks what the revised Accords holds for the future of Colombia. 

Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the largest guerrilla movement in Latin America, the FARC-EP, took place in Havana, Cuba between 2012 and 2016. On August 24th 2016 a deal was finally hristov-peacereached. On September 19, declaring that the war in Colombia is over, President Santos formally handed the peace agreement to UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who called the deal ‘a victory for Colombia.’ The Peace Accords outline major commitments to land restitution, rural development, illicit crops substitution, they guaranteed the political participation of the guerrilla and their disarmament, and would create the Special Jurisdiction for Peace for a system of ‘Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition’. Polls predicted that the peace deal will most likely be ratified[i]. However, to the shock of many Colombians and the international community, the peace deal was narrowly rejected with 50.21 percent voting ‘No’ and 49.78 voting ‘Yes’.

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‘Condemn me if you must. History will absolve me!’ Remembering Fidel Castro 1926 – 2016

‘Fidel’s Ethics of Violence’ explores the moral and ethical aspect of Fidel Castro’s political thought and strategy, and examines as a crucial constituent component of that, Castro’s idea of the correct and incorrect use of violence. Dayan Jayatilleka  argues that Fidel Castro, near-universally regarded as a charismatic leader, made a contribution to Marxism and political thought in general, and that his main contribution to revolutionary Marxism was the introduction of an explicitly moral and ethical dimension, issuing from his combination of Marxism and Christianity.fidel_castro

This extract is in part biographical, including several quotes from Castro, as well as, providing insight into the book’s themes with an examination of Castro’s philosophical reconciliation of violence, political power and morality.

A little over half a century ago, a brilliant, passionate, Jesuit-educated young lawyer-politician led a group of rebels on an attack on the Moncada army garrison in the Oriente province in Cuba. The aim was to seize the weapons, distribute them and trigger an uprising in the province, which would then become generalised throughout the country. The goal was to topple the military junta of Batista, which was supported by the United States.

The attack failed, the rebels were arrested, tortured, murdered. Thanks to luck, the integrity of a military officer and the intervention of an archbishop, a few survived. That should have been the end of the story, like that of so many rebellions in Latin America. Yet it was not. Brought to trial in what was presumed to be an open-and- shut case, the young rebel leader conducted his own defence and made an oration that ranks in the annals of the finest emancipation literature in human history.

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Video: William Pelz, ‘A People’s History of Modern Europe’

Last week we caught up with William A. Pelz, author of A People’s History of Modern Europe, to discuss the themes in his book.

In this short video, filmed at the Marx Memorial Library, Pelz expands on the importance of approaching history through the prism of the views and actions of ordinary people (‘people’s history’). He illustrates this with a brief discussion of German women’s and workers’ resistance during World War II.

William A. Pelz is Director of the Institute of Working Class History in Chicago and a Professor of History at Elgin Community College. His recent works include Wilhelm Liebknecht and German Social Democracy (Greenwood Press, 2015), The Eugene V. Debs Reader (The Merlin Press Ltd, 2014), Against Capitalism: The European Left on the March (Peter Lang Publishing, 2007), and A People’s History of Modern Europe (Pluto, 2016).

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A People’s History of Modern Europe is available to buy from Pluto Press, here.