- Mar 15, 2017
On a more familiar national level the film "The Commitments" seeded the idea to both Irish males and females that "the Irish are the Blacks of Europe" to engender a sense of genetic and cultural 'empathical identity' within all Irish people with Africans and Blacks and to reject what we actually are, which is Western Europeans. This sort of common insidious 'incorrect replacement identity' plays on Irish low self esteem to bring about identification with Africans as the currency among the Irish, both male and female and it has had quite marked degree of traction..
I think those lines were 'borrowed' by Doyle from one of his students, who came from an area where most of the poor Gaelic-speakers who didn't emigrate to Glasgow, Liverpool or elsewhere during the 1840's settled, and the explanation for the empathy with Africans and Blacks, is far more likely to have come directly from the folk memory of An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger, and our history as an almost colonized nation. I say almost, as to paraphrase Pearse, 'Irish nationality is an ancient spiritual tradition, and the Irish nation can not die as long as that tradition lives in the heart of one faithful man or woman, and only when the last repositor of the Gaelic tradition, the last unconquered Gael dies, will the Irish nation be no more.'
“The Jim Larkin of India.”
''I remember vividly meeting Connolly on several occasions as I was regularly invited to their Citizen Army meetings...More than any of the leaders of the uprising it was Connolly who inspired me. I resolved that as soon as I returned to India I would give a graphic account of these struggles to inspire our own people...With the fervour inspired by the revolutionaries still fresh in my mind, I determined to return to India and take an active part in the political movement to secure the independence of my country.'' - Varahagiri Venkata Giri
At the time Giri came to power in India in 1969, the Irish Independent wrote that he was “a founder of the Indian Labour Movement, and is known to many as the Jim Larkin of India.” Giri, the paper noted, was a student at University College Dublin during the Irish revolutionary period, “taking his LLB and becoming a barrister, before being deported by the British.”
Of his time in Ireland, we can learn much from his memoir My Life and Times, which was published in 1976. In Dublin, Giri was active within the Dublin India Society, which drew support from the dozens of Indian students in the Irish capital. In the aftermath of the struggle of Indians in South Africa for equal rights in 1914, his society in Dublin prepared a pamphlet entitled The South African Horrors, which was well received. The cause of the Indian people received sympathetic coverage in Irish nationalist newspapers, including Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin, as well as The Irish Volunteer.
Engagements between Irish nationalists and Indian nationalists can be found in the Bureau of Military History statements, which recorded the memoirs of participants in the 1913-21 period. A particularly intriguing story of international espionage and plotting is contained in the witness statement of Robert Brennan, a senior figure in the Sinn Féin Press Bureau during the War of Independence. He recalled being introduced to two Indian men here, who presented him with a most interesting proposal:
''...They were then to meet jointly and set up a Provisional Government for India and, thereafter, carry on on Sinn Fein lines. Our part was to send one or two advisers who would, behind the scenes, guide the movement.
It was necessary that these advisers should get to India as soon as possible before the day set for the Conventions. The other plan of Bomanji’s was to prepare for a guerilla war against the British. For this purpose, he needed a number of Irish guerilla leaders, twenty or thirty to start off with. They would ostensibly be employed in the chain stores owned by Mr. A. but their real work would be to train companies of selected men in the science of guerilla warfare...''
In subsequent decades, there remained strong sympathy for India in Irish nationalist circles, which was reflected in the pages of newspapers like An Phoblacht in the 1930s... The following advertisement frequently appeared in An Phoblacht during the period, encouraging people to support the Indian Store on Dame Street:
- “The Jim Larkin of India.” | Come Here To Me!
The 1916 Easter Rising And The Emancipation Of Racially Subaltern Groups
One topic which has been absent in the centenary commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising is the issue of race and the fight against racism.
How did the 1916 Rising relate to the global fight against racism and the rights of racially subaltern groups? Some of the insurgents globally stood out in this struggle, Roger Casement in particular.
Kwame Nkrumah, the President of Ghana, the first independent country in Africa, expressed the debt owed to Casement by all "those who have fought for African freedom".
Most remarkably by 1916 Roger Casement stated that : "I had come to look upon myself as an African." (Brief to Counsel, 8 June 1916). The extraordinary fact that in 1916 Casement had looked upon himself as an African and not just some Irishman clearly shows that he identified with the subaltern globally, not just locally in Ireland and that his project transcended racial boundaries.
The 1916 Easter Rising also influenced movements working for the emancipation of subordinate racial groups elsewhere in the world. If Frederick Douglass and W.E. Du Bois were already very much interested in the Irish struggle, the 1916 rising provided the major ideological mainspring for Marcus Garvey’s radical political transformation. The Easter Rising had more impact on the Universal Negro Improvement Association than the struggles against imperialism in India, China and Egypt. (see : "Negro Sinn Féiners and Black Fenians : 'Heroic Ireland' and the Black Nationalist Imagination", in : Bruce Nelson (2012), Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race, NJ : Princeton University Press, 181-211).
In 1919, the Military Intelligence Division of the U.S. Justice Department reported that:
all the Colored speakers in Harlem are using the Irish question in their discussions”; another government agency warned that “all these negro associations are joining hands with the Irish Sinn Feiners” and with “Hindu, Egyptians, Japanese and Mexicans. (ibid, 184)
Between 1919 and 1922, the African Blood Brotherhood for African Liberation and Redemption published a monthly journal, The Crusader. This is what The Crusader had to say in 1919 about the 1916 Rising:
''The Irish fight for liberty is the greatest Epic of Modern History. It is a struggle that should have the sympathy and active support of every lover of liberty – of every member of an oppressed group. The Negro in particular should be interested in the Irish struggle, for while it is patent that Ireland can never escape from the menace of ‘the overshadowing empire’ so long as England is able to maintain her grip on the riches and manpower of India and Africa it is also clear that those suffering together under the heel of British imperialism must learn to CO-ORDINATE THEIR EFFORTS before they can HOPE TO BE FREE." (Cathy Bergin (2016), ‘Unrest among the Negroes’: the African Blood Brotherhood and the politics of resistance, Race & Class, 57:3, 51-53). - The 1916 Easter Rising And The Emancipation Of Racially Subaltern ...
Apart from Roger Casement who 'looked upon himself as an African', it appears that it was the Africans who 'identified' with the Irish, or rather, as VV Giri the former President of India says, took inspiration directly from Irish revolutionaries, almost half a century before Haile Sellasie's address to the United Nations in 1963, where he spoke about the survival of the human race being dependent on the need to transcend racial boundaries:
'When I spoke at Geneva in 1936, there was no precedent for a head of state addressing the League of Nations. I am neither the first, nor will I be the last head of state to address the United Nations, but only I have addressed both the League and this Organization in this capacity. The problems which confront us today are, equally, unprecedented. They have no counterparts in human experience. Men search the pages of history for solutions, for precedents, but there are none. This, then, is the ultimate challenge. Where are we to look for our survival, for the answers to the questions which have never before been posed?'
As Liam O'Ruairc suggests in that article about the 1916 Rising, the United Irishmen had a pill for the disease of Sectarianism: 'The connection between Irish republicanism and the struggle of racially subaltern groups goes back as far as the United Irishmen. Luke Gibbons has described how the United Irishmen's belief in universal emancipation expressed itself in support for subaltern racial groups. He mentions the interesting fact that in 1789, the Iroquois Amerindian nation nominated as honorary chief Lord Edward Fitzgerald, future leader of the 1798 rebellion. The contribution of the 1916 Easter Rising to the struggles for the emancipation of racially subaltern groups continued down the years.'