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Lenin and Ireland

The author is a QUB Pol Sci Honours graduate and has written extensively on imperialism, national liberation struggles and class issues.

VI Lenin with Roddy Connolly (centre) at the Second World Congress of the Communist International, Petrograd, July 1920.

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Lenin Spoke With An Irish Accent!

It may come as a surprise to many that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the leader of the world's first Socialist state spoke with an Irish accent! There have been many theories regarding this, not least the south of Ireland's Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny's bizarre and erroneous claim that Michael Collins had brought VI Lenin to stay in Ireland.

When Roddy Connolly (son of Irish Marxist revolutionary, James Conolly) visited the USSR in 1920 and 1921 and met VI Lenin he attested that the latter spoke with an Irish accent:

"Connolly was very surprised to hear Lenin speak English with a Rathmines (South Dublin) accent. The explanation is that when the Russian arrived in London, around 1902, the English language teacher he could afford to pay was an Irishman. It may be indirectly confirmed by Lenin’s own wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, who in her memoirs remembers that when both of them were listening to speakers on Hyde Park there was one with an Irish accent that they could understand better." (Adriana Moura)

The Russian embassy itself weighed in to confirm that Lenin spoke with an Irish accent and to partially defuse Enda Kenny's embarrassing gaffe in 2012 as mentioned above:

"The embassy provided evidence to back up the famous story about how Lenin spoke English with an Irish accent.

A Russian embassy spokesman said that Lenin had visited London several times -- and had hired an Irish tutor to teach him to speak English.

"Lenin said that his tutor in English was an Irishman and that was why he was speaking with an Irish accent," he said.

The embassy said this had been documented in an article written by 'War of the Worlds' author HG Wells, who met Lenin in Moscow in 1920 and noticed his Irish accent."

Speaking after a short silent film and talk chaired by Roddy Conolly, Lenin and Conolly can be seen conversing freely in which can only have been in English as Connolly was not a Russian speaker. DALTÚN Ó CEALLAIGH who was in attendance at the meeting stated:

"After the film, Roddy gave his talk in the course of which he stated that he and Lenin were in fact exchanging views in English and that Vladimir Ilyich spoke that tongue “with a Rathmines accent”. Roddy also said that, after Lenin’s death, the Russians, on researching his life, believed that when he was in London and had placed an advertisement in the London Times to the effect of “if you help teach me English, I’ll help teach you Russian”, the person who replied being a “Mac” somebody or other was thus a Scot. But Roddy said that, on the contrary, it must have been an Irishman."

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Lenin's Support For The Easter Rising

VI Lenin's links to Ireland and support of Irish socialist revolutionaries, primarily James Connolly, the Marxist leader of the Irish Socialist Republican Party, the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) Europe's first Red Army and the Easter Rebellion of 1916, ran deeper than just a shared English accent. As the Easter Rising was happening, primarily in Dublin, VI Lenin was already formulating his thesis on imperialism and national self-determination: "The most famous Soviet encounter with the Rising was Lenin’s. As Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army took control of the General Post Office in central Dublin and raised the Irish national flag of green, white and gold, Lenin was in the midst of writing his theory of imperialism and national self-determination for those nations oppressed by imperialism. Sensing that events in Ireland were confirming his new perspective, Lenin embraced the Easter Rising as a decisive “blow against the power of English imperialism”. He was therefore aghast and angered when several fellow Bolsheviks like Karl Radek denounced the Rising as a “putsch” carried out by “petty-bourgeois” nationalist dreamers."

A Soviet portrayal of the Easter Rising reads: “The scene of the 1916 Uprising with a wounded Connolly"

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VI Lenin Had A Great Interest In Ireland's Potential As A Bulwark Against Imperialism

To a certain extent, VI Lenin saw the Easter Rising against British imperialism as an exportable model to overthrow the war-weary 'Old Powers' of many of Europe's imperialist or proto-imperialist regimes. VI Lenin's admiration for James Connolly is well documented and he riled against the economist elements and salon-set 'socialists' who viewed the Irish Rebellion as some kind of priest-ridden, Hibernian-putsch and somehow bourgeoise in character.

Even prior to the Easter Rising, VI Lenin praised the class warfare of the bitterly fought out Dublin Lock-out and Great Strike from 26 Aug 1913 – 18 Jan 1914. In Lenin's Class War in Dublin and what then was known as Larkinism (a type of syndicalism that also had the aim of national liberation), named after the dynamic strike leader Big Jim Larkin:

"The Dublin events mark a turning point in the history of the labour movement and of socialism in Ireland. Murphy* has threatened to destroy the Irish trade unions. He has succeeded only in destroying the last remnants of the influence of the Irish nationalist bourgeoisie over, the Irish proletariat. He has helped to steel the independent revolutionary working-class movement in Ireland, which is free of nationalist prejudices."

*(William Martin Murphy was a one-dimensional nationalist, viciously anti-trade union and member of Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party who encouraged Irishmen to join the British Army in its later war with Germany. Murphy was the head of the employers' organization which had combined with his Gombeen capitalist allies to smash the rising tide of trade union militancy in Dublin by locking trade union members out of their workplaces and target Jim Larkin in particular. He had the support of the nascent Sinn Féin who sided with the employers federation.)

Big Jim Larkin During The Great Dublin Lock-Out and Strike

Although in many ways a syndicalist, Larkin was Ireland's Comintern representative for decades

Although in many ways a syndicalist, Larkin was Ireland's Comintern representative for decades

Lenin's Thesis on Self-determinism and Anti-imperialism

In VI Lenin's 'The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up' written in July 1916, he rails against the so-called purists, former Mensheviks, economists, crypto-Proudhonists and ultra-leftists:

"The views of the opponents of self-determination lead to the conclusion that the vitality of small nations oppressed by imperialism has already been sapped, that they cannot play any role against imperialism, that support of their purely national aspirations will lead to nothing, etc. The imperialist war of 1914–16 has provided facts which refute such conclusions."

VI Lenin was scathing of those, like modern-day Brit-centric leftists, Trotskyists, two-nations theorists and anarchists, who viewed the struggle for Irish national liberation as a series of ill-thought-out putsches and sectarian-based insurrections rather than as an integral part of the Irish Dialectic:

"The term “putsch”, in its scientific sense, may be employed only when the attempt at insurrection has revealed nothing but a circle of conspirators or stupid maniacs and has aroused no sympathy among the masses. The centuries-old Irish national movement, having passed through various stages and combinations of class interest, manifested itself, in particular, in a mass Irish National Congress in America Vorworts, March 20, 1916) which called for Irish independence; it also manifested itself in street fighting conducted by a section of the urban petty bourgeoisie and a section of the workers after a long period of mass agitation, demonstrations, suppression of newspapers, etc. Whoever calls such a rebellion a “putsch” is either a hardened reactionary or a doctrinaire hopelessly incapable of envisaging a social revolution as a living phenomenon."

VI Lenin concludes, prophetically critiquing the purists and ultra-leftists, as Utopians and salon-socialists:

''So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view could vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”.

Whoever expects a “pure” social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.'

The struggle for national liberation and an Irish Workers Republic continues in Ireland, much as Lenin proclaimed, to paraphrase Marx and Engels Communist Manifesto, 'sometimes hidden, sometimes open!' With Irish re-unification becoming a reality on a near-daily basis, let us not forget James Connolly, VI Lenin's comrade's words:

"If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.

England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.

England would still rule you to your ruin, even while your lips offered hypocritical homage at the shrine of that Freedom whose cause you had betrayed.

Nationalism without Socialism – without a reorganisation of society on the basis of a broader and more developed form of that common property which underlay the social structure of Ancient Erin - is only national recreancy."

(James Connolly - Socialism and Nationalism, 1897)

Socialism and Nationalism by James Connolly

The Limerick Soviet

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Roddy Connolly and The Struggle For Socialism In Ireland

James Connolly's Ideological Heirs

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Liam A Ryan

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