One hundred years ago, Ireland was in the midst of a revolutionary war for independence from Britain. As Britain’s oldest colony, Ireland was the testing ground for the brutal policies that the British ruling class applied across the Empire. The terror the British troops (known as the “black and tans”) unleashed is a notorious and blood-stained page in the history of British imperialism – one that is little discussed today.
The War of Independence took place in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution, forming part of a wave of revolutions across Europe. In content, the Irish Revolution was a proletarian revolution, accompanied by strikes, factory and land occupations, and even the formation of soviets. Again, this fact is little mentioned one hundred years on.
The outcome of the War of Independence, however, was betrayal by the nationalist leaders and the partition of Ireland, which unleashed a wave of reaction.
As such, the legacy of the unfinished revolution from a century ago lives on in the struggle against the Catholic Church; the unresolved national question; and the crisis of the two-party system in the South.