Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland
1 July 2016
A hundred years ago, tens of thousands of Irishmen took part in the senseless slaughter known to history as the Battle of the Somme. Answering the call of John Redmond, leader of the Irish Party in the British Parliament, the majority of Irish Volunteers, who had sworn to defend Ireland, joined the British army and were duly sent off to slaughter German conscripts. More than a million men of all sides were killed or wounded in this battle—a staggering figure even today, when the world has become accustomed to permanent war.
The Irish elite, including the section that traces its origins from the War of Independence and until recently called itself “republican,” has long since made its peace with Redmondism. It now expects Irish people to commemorate and celebrate the slaughter, to regard as heroes those who naïvely believed British propaganda that the war was for the “freedom of small nations.” Some 200,000 Irishmen took part in Britain’s war; more than 30,000 of them gave their lives for nothing.
We know from experience that the British establishment have used and continue to use such commemorations for the promotion of their continued militarism and participation in aggressive wars of occupation and domination, as do all the other imperial powers. Working people, now as then, are considered nothing more than cannon fodder.
Working people need to learn the lessons of history and not celebrate or unconsciously mark historic slaughters but rather to dedicate the memory of those who were needlessly slaughtered on Flanders Fields a hundred years ago to opposing wars of the present day and bringing an end to the permanent war strategy of imperialism today—a strategy to which the Irish establishment wishes to make its contribution through “Partnership for Peace,” Irish soldiers’ involvement in NATO, and the use of Shannon Airport.
As James Connolly wrote, “ruling by fooling is a great British art—with great Irish fools to practise on.”