Rojava International Brigadiers honour the Legendary Bob Crow – Morning Star – 16/08/16 

“They went because their open eyes could see no other way.” So rang the words of Cecil Day-Lewis in the ears of manylast week as a photograph emerged online showing International Brigadiers in Northern Syria sending solidarity to the RMT Southern Rail strike.

RMT guards are striking on Southern Rail, which has been chosen by the DFT as a battle ground to smash the Transport Unions, to defend passenger safety and to keep a second safety critical member of staff on board trains.

The newly-formed unit of the International Freedom Battalion (IFB) are fighting the war against Isis just 30 miles from their stronghold in Raqqa, and have taken the name of the late RMT General Secretary Bob Crow for their banner.

Comprised of British and Irish volunteers, the brigade who will serve a minimum six months military service have assisted the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in making significant territorial gains in the area.

Their aims are to defend the right of the Kurdish people to self determination, to defend the revolution in Rojava and to combat the fascism of ISIS.

They have decided to honour Bob Crow in this way because he was a working class hero, and the inspiration for a generation of socialists and trade unionists. He inspired all of them.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Steve Hedley, Snr. Asst. General Secretary of the RMT said;

“Bob would have been honoured that young people from Britain would fight the forces of evil in his name.

“A great admirer of the international brigades that fought in Spain, Crow would of course have drawn the parallels with the new international brigades fighting clerical fascism and defending Yazhidi ,Muslim and Christian workers from slavery and persecution.”

Speaking to the partner of a British volunteer, it is evident that this is a precarious and dangerous time. Like any family mindful of a loved one, there is fear and worry, but also great love, pride and hope;

“Having someone close to you in such a dangerous place – on the front line fighting ISIS is obviously worrying. I am however very proud of my fiancé, he is brave and dedicated in fighting against all forms of fascism, including the mysogynistic and oppressive Daesh.

“The Rojava revolution is a women’s led struggle in a region where women’s rights are few. So as a feminist and a socialist I understand the importance of the international volunteers and the support they provide to the revolutionary struggle.”

Although the legal status of volunteering is unclear, all of the brigade were inspired to answer the call put out by the IFB last year, and comparisons between the International Freedom Battalion of today and the Brigadas Internacionales of 1930s Spain are not lost on the volunteers either.

As communists and antifascists they understood clearly the threat of fascism posed by ISIS and the need to defend and spread the social revolution taking place in Rojava.

The communist international put the call out in the ’30’s to defend the Spanish republic from fascism, and they have answered the call to fight fascism today in the same spirit.

Although the Rojava Revolution has taken hundreds of volunteers over the last four years, YPG commander Cihan Kendal says they want to teach brigadiers more than they have previously.

As a result, on top of military training, all recruits now study at least a month of Kurdish language, history and culture and political and ideological classes. Classes are also taught by the women’s movement on their ideology and organisations.

Kendal says; “it is true that there are not so many female volunteers at the moment, but this will change… the main force of this revolution is the women’s movement and their ideology; so more women have to come, have to see it, and take part in their own emancipation.”

As the spectre of fascism looms large on the global stage, Gary Oak left a parting statement with a rousing message for us all.

“We must hold our values and analysis to be completely true at every step of the way; we must tell the people that our thought liberated us in the past, will liberate us now from confusion and dismay, and will ultimately liberate the whole of humanity; and we tell them by actions that demonstrate we believe this.”

He says it is no longer enough to traipse miserably through the rain, with placard in hand bemoaning our lack of power. It is not enough to sullenly sulk at the state of things. We have answered the call, and we answer it gladly, proud of our opportunity and our place in this struggle.

We must take our convictions in hand, and give dutily what is required, we must not fear or falter, we cannot let slip now – we must be the left that history demands of us.

Interview with a Communist

I met with Chris Walker last month to give him an interview on my politics, where they came from, and what it’s all about:

1. At what age and where did your support for communism come from ?

I grew up in a strict family as the daughter of a baptist minister. We were working class, permanently skint and crowbarred by our parents into stereotypes we hated. 

When I was 18 my “rebel phase” got out of hand and my dad kicked me out. I began squatting in London.

The anarchists I met in those squats, although I didn’t necessarily agree with them all the time, had passion and courage of conviction which I admired. I called myself an anarchist too, for a few years, and attended demos with my face covered and dressed black head to toe, I was naively waiting for that round-the-corner revolution we all see as imminent when we’re kids.

This was definitely the root of my political views as I saw them then, these guys had a real desire to smash the status quo, tear down the systems of oppression, shake the world. But in the end, as I grew up and had children, immersed myself in the working world and all the challenges that come with it, I began to look for something else. Something that suggested a remedy, a plan – for after the smashing of the state.

After the last general election, I went through some old boxes of stuff and found the Communist Manifesto. A friend had given it to me years before and begged me to read it, I had forgotten all about it. I read it, and read it again, and it completely changed my life. It’s been changing my life ever since.

2. In the current political situation in Britain how would communism change britain for the better ?

Communism is as much an answer in Britain as it is anywhere. Its a solution for all of the worlds ills, not just ours. It’s not a political party or a special measure – it’s a complete brick by brick dismantling of the whole capitalist system of corruption, exploitation and oppression which has crippled us for so long.

It is the building of a system in which the backbone of humanity – the working class, are afforded all that is owed to them, put simply – the fruits of their labour; the world itself. 

It is not about changing what we have and making it better, or taking it back to when it wasn’t quite so bad. It must be obliterated altogether, scrubbed from the earth, and replaced with the dictatorship of the proletariat – the working class. 

3. Who in Britain’s current political arena could help bring communism to Britain?

This is something that I learned as a young anarchist booting off at the G20 and going home with an empty feeling in my belly, frustrated cos half my mates had been nicked and I’d lost a glove.

There are no shortcuts. Communism won’t be built overnight just because somewhere, the right guy fell into the right job. The only people who can enforce a working class revolution and establish communism, are us – the working class. The only way this will happen, is if we are motivated, educated, supported and connected.  

There will always be sympathetic politicians. There will also always be those politicians who would love to see you swinging from a lamppost. We must rise with our class, all of us together, and not one above the rest. We must build the movement if we want it to be built. Join the unions, fight for the working class and stand strong when we are attacked, rally and defend each other, and build the movement. I can’t say it enough, its the only way it can be done.

4. What advice or information would you give to people wanting to find out more about communism and who inspired you?

Find other communists, for a start. I am very lucky to have a close network of likeminded friends who have all been very supportive and patient with me while I learn. I also joined my local branch of the communist party who hold monthly meetings where you can ask questions and learn more. There is also a library in Clerkenwell in London called the Marx Memorial Library – they not only hold books they also run courses on Marxist material, it’s an amazing place. 

It is of paramount importance for any communist to find comrades and to connect with them. None of us can do it on our own, we need each other. Also, read the manifesto. Read it until you understand it, there are a lot of resources out there which can help you study. A lot of the writings that we refer to as communists are old and academic – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t relevant or accessible. The manifesto is a love song to our class, and we must learn to sing it.

5. What direction is the communist movement in Britain heading towards?

Toward communism, haha!

Communists don’t exactly have a stranglehold on the political sphere in Britain right now but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of work to be done. Jeremy Corbyn is a strong socialist who values many of the same ideas and issues that we do. As communists we must learn to use the vehicles available to us to our advantage. 

The divisionary tactics and sectarianism of the liberal left will be their own downfall. We can and must work with all areas of the working class to further our aims, but as I said before, class revolutions do not come about overnight. Build it from the ground up, and if there’s nothing where you live then build it there.

6. What would you say to people who still fear / misunderstand what communism is?

That’s a huge chunk of the world there that you’re talking about – there has been a colossal campaign of ferocious propaganda against communism which is still strong today. 

It’s no wonder that the capitalist giants of the world will do all in their power to discredit and destroy us – we are the antithesis of everything they are, and their greatest threat. 

But maybe the message shouldn’t be for those who are afraid of us – maybe it should be for us, to tell working class people there is nothing to fear. 

Hoist that hammer and sickle high, let it fly in the wind, let the blood of the martyrs wash any doubt from your mind. Do not be ashamed and afraid of knowing the truth. Only when people see and fear will they question and understand.

7. Have you a message for people this interview might inspire to look at communism in a new light?

I think, as with anything in life, the message is simple. Find out for yourself. Read. Educate yourself. Find who your friends are, and build with them. Move forward, push. Spread the word. Join a union. Fly that red flag proud. See you on the barricades.

Victory to the International Brigades!

You know, I bet there were a few of those men and women in the 1930s who’s families said they were crazy. I bet there were people who laughed at them, or stared confused at their intention. I bet there were people who ridiculed and mocked, and told them it was pointless. 

I bet a lot of people didn’t really understand what it was all about, and what’s Spain got to do with us anyway? I bet it was hard leaving their children and families behind. I bet it was difficult to explain to them what was going on, and why they had to go. 

Because they did, have to go. It was not an option. The ugly head of fascism was reared in Spain and the call was sent out. These men and women understood that the struggle was international. That there must be international solidarity and action if it was to be defeated. The courage of their convictions was born, and from it came a most beautiful thing. 

They understood that win or lose, to fight and die was better than to lie down and allow the wheels of such a monster to smother them in the dirt. They knew that if they did not go to Spain and slam the door in its face it would be on their doorstep next. 

“They went because their open eyes could see no other way.” And there was no other way, than to put their lives on the front line in solidarity with the people of Spain and to declare, loudly, for the world to hear – NO PASARAN! 

They were heroes, and we remember them – in our hearts, on our memorials, in our songs and in our stories. They are a part of this struggle which can never be erased or sullied. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for the greatest cause ever known – the freedom of mankind.

The Spanish Civil War ended in 1939 – but the war against fascism rages on, and is perhaps now more terrifying than ever before. In Syria and Iraq, the fascist hordes of ISIS have amassed to pour their boiling poison into the world. 

Who stands in the face of such terror? Who holds back the night from our doorstep? Who stands, boldly, their very life in hand, ready to give it gladly in this war against evil? Who are the men and women who have already given so much, sacrificed all, for the greatest cause ever known? 

The brave heroes of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the International Freedom Battalion (IFB). Men and women who are not conscripts, who have no duty in this fight other than that which blooms inside of them. The burning passion to eradicate this blackness from the earth, and replace it with the liberation of all humanity. 

They pound that pavement to glory that the earlier brigadiers paved for them. They fight, as they did in Spain in the 1930s, because they know there is no other way. They are the sword in the darkness, they are the beacon light in a world black as pitch. They too, have left behind families, children, spouses, whole lives to offer up their entire existence to the cause of socialism.

British and Irish Men of the Bob Crow Brigade, IFB – we salute you, and send to you our deepest love and solidarity. You are an inspiration to us all, you are the bedtime story I tell my son. You are the hope of a generation. 

As James Connolly spoke to his daughter Nora for the last time ahead of his execution – she said to him, “daddy – do we really have to fight?”

He said to Nora, “If we don’t fight, we can only hope for a great earthquake to come and swallow us and our shame.”

This is true now, as it was then, for all who would consider themselves socialist. We are bound by our morals, by the debt owed to those brigadiers in Spain, and by the blood of the martyrs which soaks every Corner of the red flag we hold so proudly aloft. 

Fascism runs rampant on the global stage. 

The international brigades burn brightly, a beacon of hope for all the world to see. 

The call is in all of us, and we must answer. We must.

It’s not even about men.

In the capitalist system, we know that labour is the currency of the working class. It’s all we have to trade. But there are two types of labour.

Firstly, productive labour which is all the work that produces goods and services. Then there’s reproductive labour which refers to the work done in caring for the physical self, the home and the raising of children. This is typically seen in modern society as “women’s work.”

As we know from our (very) brief foray into Kapital, capitalism is based on the accumulation of profit. Most profit is generated through manufacturing, services, sales – productive labour, and so it is seen as more valuable than reproductive labour. 

As a result, because this is viewed as women’s work, women are seen as less economically valuable than men. In this way women are open to exploitation. Not only do they physically support the whole capitalist system in terms of their unpaid labour, they are also already viewed as less than men when they do enter into productive labour. 

This has always been the case since patriarchal societies (those where men have all the power) were introduced. Engels (manifesto guy) called this ‘the world historical defeat of the female sex.’

Because of the social conditions created by capitalism, the way men and women are viewed and valued, the first step to women’s liberation from their dependence on men is their entry into the paid labour system.

Of course, they will still share the class oppression of male workers – and here is where it becomes evident that liberation for women must mean liberation for all, through socialist revolution.

The class struggle, the desperate need for socialism, is not a new concept to most of us. But we must also realise that women’s struggle is rooted deeply in the oppression of the working class. 

Liberation must come from reform that improves conditions for the working class as a whole, only then will women of all levels of society be truly equal.

What this means is that we don’t fall into the trap of comparing men and women obsessively. We reject the idea that there’s a special question about the unique needs of working class women compared to working class men. 

Economic factors have subordinated women, and only economic factors can change their social position. This means we must, as a class, as a whole, attack the basis of capitalist society.

On the face of “women’s liberation” are working class women and liberal middle-class women, seemingly working together – but however “radical” – feminists are still loyal to their class. This is evident because the middle class liberals seek equality within the existing class society framework, they do not attack the basis as we do. 

Because they see men as the enemy, achievements of equal rights with men is a victory to them. They won’t fight for the social revolution needed to liberate them because it threatens their class position. Although our aims may overlap at times, our long term goals differ drastically. 

Each concession they gain is another weapon to use against their working class sisters, another privilege we are not afforded, and so the division between these classes of women grows. The ‘struggle’ and aims of their class are alien to us, and unsatisfying. 

Such small concessions are only the first step to liberation and equality for working class women who see men as their comrades, enslaved alongside them by the same social conditions. They know their enemy, and they strive together against the sickness rather than the symptoms.

It is the working woman who is the saviour of her own future. Only the upper classes can hope to benefit from a union between she and them. The only hope for her in these social conditions is an equal share of inequality, and so she rejects the basis of the measurement. 

“The working woman must not and does not forget that while the aim of bourgeois women is to secure their own welfare in the framework of a society antagonistic to us – our aim is to build, in place of the old, outdated world, a bright temple of universal labour, comradely solidarity and joyful wisdom.” – Alexandra Kollontai, 1909

The only liberation for women is liberation for all, for our class, and so we demand only the right for each to the fullest and freest self-determination. 

Morning Star Article 12/03/16 – Alexey Markov Interview

The ghost battalion are proving they are much more than just soldiers in the war-torn districts of Lugansk and Donetsk as they strive to bring aid and hope to the local area through a variety of social projects designed to aid in the rebuilding of the community. 

Despite the Minsk II ceasefire declared on February 15 2015 the situation in Ukraine remains unstable. Human Rights Watch claim that as of Autumn 2015 five million people in Eastern Ukraine are in need of humanitarian aid, with three million classed as “most vulnerable.” 

A United Nations report on the Ukraine conflict dated February 2016 reported that just 57,300 of those in need were assisted this winter, with UNICEF also claiming that up to 1.3 million people have little or no access to clean water. 

Commander Alexey Markov, a volunteer of Prizrak (ghost) brigade, has been based in Lugansk, the Russian-speaking industrial region of Eastern Ukraine since September 2014. 

“I had never been to Ukraine before 2014. After seeing the terrible scenes in Odessa of crowds cheering behind piles of charred bodies, I realised that fascism had been revived. As a Communist, I could not accept the fact that Nazis were again slaughtering innocent people, so I left my home and job in Moscow and went to fight in the Donbass.”

“When I first arrived, the city was dead. There was no electricity, no people on the streets and no traffic. All the shops were closed and there was no public transport. People were living in fear for their lives, under constant attack from the Ukrainian side. The destruction was clearly visible on all the main streets of the city.”

“Over the past year the situation has improved, and although many people’s homes, schools and hospitals were destroyed, life in the city is getting better. The city looks almost peaceful. Almost.”

The brigade which has its headquarters in Alchevsk has a strong social dimension, and has from its inception organised free meals through canteens sustained by the volunteers for large families and those on low income in the area. 

They have also provided products for schools and hospitals, as well as ensuring that the children of Alchevsk received gifts from the brigade at Christmas.

Although the work done by the brigade in the local community is invaluable, Markov is under no illusions as to the importance of international solidarity. 
“It’s very important that the local people understand that they are not alone in the struggle against fascism. Help from abroad may not be materially significant, but it is very important in terms of morale. 

Citizens are, however, in immediate need of medical supplies and equipment for the restoration of hospitals. It is also important that the reality of the war in Donbass is reported accurately in the West. It is imperative that European governments are encouraged to reassess their support for the Kiev regime.” 
 

Despite the volatile situation in Eastern Ukraine, which has seen in the past year ceasefire violations from both sides, Markov still holds hope for the future.
“Unfortunately, it is impossible to reach an agreement short of a military victory. I hate war, but the alternative is even worse.”

“I hope the children of Lugansk will soon live in a free, independent and socialist republic where nobody will ever again dare to kill or harm them, or compare them to ‘beetle larvae’ as the Ukrainian nationalists do. They will have a chance to become full-fledged citizens, and not ‘occupiers’ in their own land.” 

A spokesperson for the Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) said: 

“We are a labour movement campaign organised to pressure the government to withdraw diplomatic, financial and military support for the Kiev regime, and to help bring about an end to the civil war which has seen the death of over 10,000 civilians and the displacement of over a million people.”

“Since the Kiev government has also frozen all social security payments to the east, including those to pensioners, the unemployed and  the disabled, it is vitally important that we confront this humanitarian crisis.”

Those wishing to show solidarity to the people of Lugansk can do so by contacting Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) via sarucampaign@gmail.com.

Kapital in a Nutshell Pt. 1

I’ve been reading Kapital. Well, actually I havent because I’m not a complete masochist, what Ive been doing is reading a lot of stuff about Kapital so that I dont have to tackle the beast head on by myself, and die cold and alone drowning in a sea of intellectual genius that I cant quite grasp. So, this is what I make of it. If you have any questions or you think its total bollocks, please do let me know and I will be sure to deny any involvement in the production of this overview.

Commodification
Commodities are all the things around us that are made and manufactured. All this stuff that can be used or sold, we call the Wealth of Capitalist Society. It used to be the case that things were made to be used – cups were made for drinking, clothes were made for wearing. Since the rise of capitalism around the globe, commodities now have another purpose – to be sold. We make more things for sale now than ever, where we used to make clothes to cover our backs now they are mass produced to generate a profit. This is not natural – this is manmade. The commodification of produce is unique to capitalism.

There is a duality in the value of the commodity. It is valuable both in terms of how useful it is and how profitable it is. These values are at odds with each other, so as a commidity becomes more valuable and profitable, its use-value is alienated. As capitalism pushes for ever increasing profit, this clashes with the human need for food, warmth, shelter etc. The use-value of commodities is abused and distorted in order to make it more profitable. To the extent that a commodity is financially valuable, its use-value is lessened.

We can use the example of a loaf of bread sitting on a supermarket shelf. This has a use value in that it can be eaten and fulfill the human need for sustenance. However, unless the value of the product is fulfilled – unless you can pick it up and pay for it, the use-value is totally irrelevant. It will continue to rot on the shelf regardless of its use-value until somebody can afford to buy it. In this way, the use of commodities is abused in order to further profit. This can also be seen from another angle through manufacture – as long as products are being sold, companies are happy to cut costs of production and compromise on the safety of the product and the security of the labour force as long as the result is profitable. The use-value becomes irrelevant.
So. That’s commodity. A thing that is made, which at once is both useful and profitable. As the profitability of a commodity is increased, the use-value of it is decreased.

Over-Production
An inevitable result of this constant quest for profit is overproduction. There comes a point when business produces ‘too much’ of a certain commodity – or rather, produce an amount that cannot be bought up by society. It may be that a building firm for example has built a number of houses, which people cannot afford to buy. This does not mean that there is no longer a demand for housing, just that the people who need it cannot afford to pay for it. As a result of this overproduction – where more things are made than can be sold, prices and profits fall. This is because companies in competition with each other for profit must reduce the cost of the commodities they produce in order to encourage people to buy them.

In order to raise the prices and profits and to tackle this over-production, business destroys part of its produce. Rather than give those houses away to people who need them, they would rather pull them down – causing a shortage, and thereby pushing prices and profit back up. They are not in the business of promoting use-value and fulfilling human need, but rather of making profit. If it is not profitable, it is irrelevant how useful it can be. It must be destroyed to ensure the price hike of the remainder of the produce.

Even though people may be starving, if there is an overproduction of food which causes the price to fall – it will be destroyed rather than distributed to ensure the increasing value of food afterward. Produce is destroyed on the basis that if there is less of a thing for people to fight over, they are inclined to pay more for it, and thereby increase profit for business.

Exchange-Value
We now know that commodities are produced in capitalist society in order to be exchanged, either for other commodities or money, in order to generate a profit. But how is it decided what is a fair exchange? In a literal sense, there is no such thing as a fair exchange, because no two items are the same. Up to this point, it is simply the case that people have been content to make unfair exchange, but under capitalism where profit reigns over all, we are now talking about ‘systemic commodity exchange’ which must be regulated in order to maximise profit.

That is, the capitalist system is entirely built upon the premise of the exchange of commodity. Whilst all commodities are exchangable and materially unique – as before, no two items are of exact equal worth. However, under this system, there is something that all commodities have in common, and that is the human effort required for its production or appropriation for sale and profit. This measure is what provides the basis for exchange in capitalist society. Using this rule, a table which takes one man one day to make is of equal value to, say, a basket of apples which took one man one day to harvest. Although this is much more complex and Marx explains this much more in-depth, this is the basis of the principle. The exchange-value of commodity is dictated by the value of labour-time.

Useful and Abstract Labour
Useful labour, or Concrete labour, is how we refer to the physical act of labour. This is different and unique to each commodity. A mill workers labour is not equally measurable to a bakers labour, they may differ in terms of intensity and skill. However when the miller looks at a bag of flour, he sees so many hours of work. When the baker looks at a loaf of bread, he too sees so many hours of labour. In this way the labour-time of the two is comparable and the exchange-value of the commodities can be measured.

It does not matter how long it actually takes to make the product. No matter how slowly you work, the commodity you produce is only worth what the average labourer would expend in making it. The actual time spent producing useful labour is irrelevant, only the amount of socially standard labour, or what people would normally expect, dictates the value of the product. When machinery is introduced to a milk farm, for example. The time taken to milk the cow is dramatically reduced, and therefore so is the value of the commodity – milk. Those farmers who do not have the same machinery will find that their milk will be greatly reduced in value regardless of the their concrete labour time, because of the level of socially standard labour has changed. This concept we refer to as abstract labour – a scale whereby all useful labour can be measured equally in order to facilitate exchange.

The alienation of useful labour is a result of this. As society focuses on the abstract concept presented to them, the obvious literal value of useful labour is obscured. In this way, all commodities are equally measurable and exchangeable. The basic principal of buying and selling commodities is a social attribute of a capitalist society.
Part Two: https://redraskova.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/kapital-in-a-nutshell-pt-2/

Constance.

People seem to have this idea that you can only be a successful socialist if you’re born and bred working class. You can only understand class struggle if you’ve had to suffer it, you can only fight oppression if you’re oppressed. History tells us that’s bollocks, socialists come from all walks of life – and necessarily, or how could we begin to understand the complexities of our society with only one vantage point? 

Constance Markievicz was not working class. In fact she was the daughter of the Arctic explorer Sir Henry Gore-Booth and Lady Georgina Gore-Booth. They held land of 39 square miles, they were well off, and yet the stereotypes we often apply to the upper classes did not fit so snugly there. During the famine Gore-Booth provided food for the tenants on his Sligo estate free of charge. At a time when thousands were starving and dying, desperately clamouring onto ships to escape the genocide, Gore-Booth was instilling in his daughters a deep concern for the working class which would shape the rest of their lives.

Constance wanted to study to be a painter, though there was only one school in Dublin accepting female students. Already Constance was pushing firmly against the agenda that had been laid out for her, and was determining to carve out her own way regardless of accepted social norms and standards. Attending an art school in London was where Constance first became involved with the National Union of Women’s Suffragette Societies. 

By 1903 Constance had married and birthed a daughter, and was accepted as a renowned landscape artist. Now living in Dublin with her family, she was a cornerstone in the founding of the United Artists Club. This was a group for artists and writers to socialise and support each other, and whilst its main aims were the preservation of Irish language and culture, it attracted members from all walks of life, not least those with strong revolutionary ideals. In this club Constance was able to mingle with peers from both sides of the nationalist argument, which surely laid the foundation for her future in politics.

In 1906 Constance rented a cottage in the Dublin countryside, where she found that the previous tenant, a poet named Padraic Colum, had left behind manuscripts of a revolutionary journal entitled “The Peasant and Sinn Feinn.” It was the reading of these materials promoting independence from the British that spurred Constance into action. This was arguably the most pivotal period in Constance’s young life – a move from a mother, a suffragette and a painter to a daughter of Ireland, a sworn freedom fighter. 
Constance joined both Sinn Fein and the Daughters of Ireland in 1907 and thus began to involve herself consciously in nationalist politics. Constance attended her first meeting dressed in a ballgown and tiara having come straight from a function at Dublin Castle. The hostility which met her as a result was a breath of fresh air, and no longer treated regally as “Countess” Constance found herself able to relax and focus on the important issues.

Having campaigned against Churchill with her sister and the suffragettes in Manchester, Constance returned to Ireland and founded the Fianna Éireann, a nationalist scouts organisation that instructed teenage boys and girls in the use of firearms. Patrick Pearse later said that the creation of Fianna Éireann was as important as the creation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913.

Constance was first jailed in 1911 after speaking to a crowd of 30,000 at a meeting of the Irish Republican Brotherhood protesting the visit of the King, having also taken part in stone-throwing at the Kings image and the burning of the British flag. Despite her upbringing and her personal financial situation, Constance was more than prepared to lay down her freedom, and even her life for freedom and equality in Ireland. She was later quoted as saying, “I would welcome the King of England over here on a visit. But while Ireland is not free I remain a rebel unconverted and unconvertible. There is no word strong enough for it. I am pledged as a rebel, an unconvertible rebel, because I am pledged to the one thing—a free and independent Republic.”

Constance later compounded this when she joined James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army. This was formed to protect demonstrating workers from the police. Constance sold all of her jewellery and borrowed money wherever she could in order to feed this small volunteer force, as well as running and financing a soup kitchen to feed poor school children. Constance had discovered already that the success of the lowest and most unfortunate was the success of the whole, she poured every cent, even drop of blood sweat and tears into the cause, and she fought with every ounce of strength she could muster. 

Constance is often quoted as saying “Dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels in the bank and buy a revolver.” She knew, this was a country on the brink of war. This was not the time for displays of affluence and partying. This was a time to arm, to prepare, to be ready for the long night ahead.

In 1916 Constance took part in the Easter Uprising where she shot and injured a British sniper. Following with great admiration the direction of James Connolly, Constance fought bravely and along with her comrades held her position six days before being captured and transported to Kilmainham Gaol. Once there, she was the only one of 70 women who was placed in solitary confinement. You can imagine the fear from the guards, who will she influence? What will she spread? Early in her political career Constance was already a force to be reckoned with, and quite rightly put the shits up the Brits.

When tried for her part in this, Constance refuted the charge of “taking part in an armed rebellion for the purpose of assisting the enemy” but proudly declared that she had indeed attempted to “cause disaffection among the civil population of His Majesty” citing that she had done what she thought was right and stood by her actions. Her courage and conviction was beyond reproach. She was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life on account of her sex. Her now famous response, “I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me.”
In 1917 Constance was released as part of a general amnesty dictated by London. Two years later she was banged up again, in Cork, for making a “seditious speech.” It seemed that everywhere Constance went and everything she said earned her jail time. It was of no consequence to her, she continued her work and aided the struggle regardless of the price, because it was right.

In 1918 she became the first woman elected to the House of Commons, but as expected as a member of Sinn Fein she declined to recognise the British Parliament and refused to take her seat. Being in Holloway Prison when the convention of the First Dail was called, Constance was referred to as being “imprisoned by the foreign enemy” as many were. She was reelected to the second Dail in 1921.

During an argument in the Dail Constance was asked why she had not gone to England with Collins et al to negotiate an agreement with the English. She replied thusly:

“I know what I mean—a state run by the Irish people for the people. That means a Government that looks after the rights of the people before the rights of property. And I don’t wish under the Saorstát to anticipate that the directors of this and the capitalists’ interests are to be at the head of it. My idea is the Workers’ Republic for which Connolly died.” Her dedication to socialism as a republican is one of the reasons her name is not as famous as you would expect. 

She was the minister for labour, fighting loud and long for the rights and equal treatment of the working class. She was the only female Irish Cabinet Minister in history until 1979. In 1922 she left government along with De Valera and others who opposed the Anglo-Irish treaty. 

After the Irish civil war which Constance took an active role in, she was again imprisoned along with 92 other women and commenced hunger strike. She was released within the month. Constance was reelected to Irish government over the coming years, before her death in 1927 just five weeks before she claimed her seat on the fifth Dail.

Constance died of complications connected to appendicitis, and having given her wealth to the cause died among the poor where she wanted to be. She had not risen with the class, rather she had reached across the divide in the name of equality and justice and fought for what was right, regardless of how it affected her personal situation. She was a heroine of the Irish Republican Movement, she was wedded to the cause and she lived and died that the working class, the Irish as a nation even, might be free of the chains of oppression and exploitation and imperialism.

Constance Markievicz might not have been a working class woman. But she was a feminist, a suffragette, a military freedom fighter, a political prisoner, a hunger striker, a politician and above all a woman who would have laid down her life to see those less fortunate though no less deserving prosper in a new Ireland built on equality and freedom for all its citizens.