September 2013        


1913 Lock-out locked in

I couldn’t get to Dublin for any workers’ demos so I was forced to watch the Sticky (sorry, official) 1913 Lock-out commemoration in bits on television. And what a truly awful sight it was!
     For this was just a shindig for the Labour Party as they—in their well-practised opportunist mode—tried to grab the mantle of Connolly and Larkin. And they were aided and abetted in this by trade unionists, some of whom once knew better.
     We had Mickey D, darling of the liberal left (whatever that is), repaying his debt to the new Labour hierarchy for his current job. And then we had awful singing. The sight and sound of Jimmy Kelly singing for his supper made me, and our cat, cringe.
     No mention of current struggles, of the right to join a union today, of austerity, of cut-backs, privatisation, yellow-pack deals, emigration, the sick, the homeless, the dispossessed, the under-educated and under-resourced children, the poor . . .
     This is just what I could see on capitalist TV—the same TV citizens will be forced by Éamon Gilmore to pay for whether they want it or not. Or even whether they even have a TV set.
     What we could not see only became apparent later as I read despatches from citizens who had “been there.”
     We of the working class take pride in our history. Proud of our own and family participation in struggle for the betterment of all—be it strikes, occupations, or downright revolution. And many of those few who went along were curious to see how this would be reflected in the official performances.
     It wasn’t! Instead we saw an official “labour” movement who had sold out decades ago telling us how great they were from behind their cordon sanitaire.
     And people were annoyed at all this. In the old days, a few loose bricks or paving stones, spuds, tomatoes, golf balls or whatever else could be thrown could be used to express this displeasure. But the Gilmores, Quinns and Beggs of today were prepared for this. For in addition to the state police, the officials behind the official commemoration had engaged the services of G4S—a private security company. G4S has a poor reputation among workers. It is known for cutting wages and jobs and poor working conditions. The sort of thing the men and women of 1913 fought against.
     Their activity at the commemoration was of questionable legality, blatantly interfering with public access at the event. This included the searching of women’s handbags and men’s spectacle cases, the barricading of the citizens, and the removal of any sign of dissent. One woman who had the nerve to tell Ruairí Quinn of her displeasure with his performance was removed. Another who criticised the US in Syria suffered the same censure.
     Two photos posted on line by the renowned historian and critic Conor McCabe show the end result. A small fenced-in crowd, cut off from the great unwashed. The irony of Larkin’s noted openness and approachability is not lost when compared with the frightened class-traitors of Labour officialdom.
     All in all, I suppose it was educational—of how dissent can be crushed in the name of Liberty and Labour. And of the urgent need to rebuild the New Trade Unionism of the days of Connolly and Larkin.
Mick Ahern
Co. Carlow

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