Radical Origins of Republicanism in 3 Minutes

Republicanism is an ideological development inspired by the 1776 and 1781 events in America and France. Both events were centered around the abolition of the monarchy. The American system created a Presidential Monarchy (executive power with the president) and began pillaging the world like their former colonial master. The French revolution temporarily established the “Commune”, the first “socialist” revolution. From this revolution, and with the help of revolutionary France, Wolfe Tone drew his central ideals, which he argued for in the Society United Irish Men.

Marxists would say that ‘Republicanism’ as a phenomena, comes from the ‘base’ which is colonial-imperialism. It is a contradictory development to colonial-imperialism that unifies the people of Ireland for a sovereign republic and the democratic ownership of resources.


Wolfe Tone, the spiritual and symbolic representative of Irish Republicanism, wrote extensively on the misery inflicted on Ireland by the English. He also made commentary about how the wealthy were responsible and how the English system, upheld the wealthy.


5 years later the remains of the Society led an abortive Rising in 1803, led by Robert Emmett, who was immortalized by his speech on the gallows. He too, talked about the wealthy being the parasites of society and he took, argued that the solution was some form of greater input from those who worked.
Fast forward to just after the famine, and we have Fintan Lalor who spoke of the necessity of unity between small farmers and the urban workers in the cities. He understood that they held economic power over Ireland, and they if they came together, they would be able to have a revolution. Around the era of Fintan Lalor, the International Working Mens’ Association (the creation of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and other Marxist thinkers) tied in with the Irish Republican Brotherhood. The first IRB proclamation is a socialist document, that speaks of ownership of resources as a means to political power. It is a radical document, inspired by the First International and by the ideas of an egalitarian society based on wealth-resource distribution.


Fast forward to the 1916 Rising. Commandant James Connolly, who read Marx&Engels and applied their scientific analysis to Ireland. He understood that the working class of Ireland were the “sole incorruptible inheritors of Ireland” and that Republicanism, i.e the ideology passed from the Society of United Irishmen to the 1916 Rebels, was framed on the desire for a more just, equal and radically democratic society with economic democracy at the heart of it.


The counter-revolution of 1922 decimated the Republican movement, but it remained alive through a variety of organisatons and groupings, no doubt including the Communist Party of Ireland. The Republican Congress was the resurrection of a co-ordinated effort to ensure that the Republicanism that was carefully advocated by James Connolly, returned, but due to the rampant Catholicism and anti-Communism prevalent in Ireland, efforts were obstructed.


In the latter part of the 20th century virtually every Republican organisation and their split, made some sort of acknowledge or recognition of Socialism as an objective that they strive to.


So when you ask whether ‘Republicanism is Left or Right’? Remember that Republicanism was founded on principles of national sovereignty, wealth re-distribution and radical democracy which places Republicanism firmly into every definition that is associated to “the left”.

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