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Revisionism April 12, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This will be of interest to many here, I think. Thanks to the person who sent the link to a piece from the Conference of Irish Historians In Britain on Jim Smyth’s ‘Revisionism Revised – by Revisionists’.


1. EWI - April 12, 2016

In this supposed centenary year, there’s at the very least anecedotal evidence to support the view that it’s become career death as a historian to approach the 1916 (and subsequent) revolutionaries with the premise that they had a legitimate cause and were entirely rational people.


Starkadder - April 13, 2016

Gabriel Doherty, a fine historian from UCC who’s always been open about his sympathy for the 1916 revolutionaries, has been giving public talks about the 1916 events recently.


Also, there’s been quite a few articles defending the 1916 revolutionaries in magazines like “History Ireland”, written by professional historians.

Maybe a sympathic view of the 1916 Revolutionaries only means “career death” in some revisionist bastion like Trinity College?


2. CL - April 12, 2016

“It is widely acknowledged that tensions around the 50th anniversaries probably contributed to the outbreak of the Troubles.”-Theresa Villiers.


Ed - April 12, 2016

‘It is widely acknowledged …’—as happy a phrase as ‘it is known’ or ‘it is believed’ for the pol cor. Villiers was issuing edicts not long ago that it was time to stop talking about the past and we weren’t allowed talk about the past because people didn’t want us to be talking about the past, that was the past not the present and people didn’t want us to be talking about it so it was time to stop talking about the past. But the ‘past’ in that case consisted of people being murdered in the North by loyalist paramilitaries with the help of state agents as recently as fifteen years ago. 1916 is a different matter, of course.


3. FergusD - April 12, 2016

Despite being born in Wales (of Irish parents) and living all but a very short time in england… it grinds me up when Brits tell the Irish what they should think about their past in that patronising way they often do! Almost enough to make me shinner!

BTW Just finished Geoffrey Bell’s “Hesitant Comrades”. Great read, fascinating stuff:



oconnorlysaght - April 12, 2016

Good stuff in Bell, but there is one howler. Trotsky did not describe the Rising as a putsch. I thought that that canard had been buried years ago.


4. CL - April 12, 2016

“as Liam Kennedy points out, before the volunteers took to the barricades ‘the people of inner city Dublin … were not even consulted’! (as if the ill reared rebels had dispensed with the rules of etiquette as set out in The Gentleman’s Guide to Insurgency).”-
Is this Liam Kennedy a historian?

Harris, O’Brien, Edwards and Bruton can be dismissed as anti-republican propagandists. But these shills for empire base their flim-flam on some allegedly scholarly work.
If Irish history can be debunked and rebunked depending on which way contemporary political winds are blowing serious questions arise for Irish historiography and for Irish historians.


5. roddy - April 12, 2016

Liam Kennedy consulted the people of West Belfast one time.He polled 300 votes while Adams polled 25000.


6. gendjinn - April 12, 2016

“Counterfactual speculation is unprovable. Plausible ‘what ifs?’, fashioned upon evidence-based assumptions can, however, illuminate the historical process by recovering the role, contingency, and complexity, of choice in human affairs. On the other hand, the seductions of politically-inspired wishful thinking, and the free play of imagination, can prove all too strong.”

The next six years of anniversaries will keep these reviews in the public discourse. Naturally comparisons will be drawn to the Troubles and SF. And too many will choose which side of the debate to come down on, based on the current political landscape, rather than the reality that obtained 100 years ago.

There is validity to criticisms leveled at those responsible for death and destruction. Certainly the leaders of 1916 have that criticism to answer for.

Come 1918 I’m confident that all these great pillars of history and journalism will be leveling the very same criticisms at the British govt…… amirite?


7. botheredbarney - April 13, 2016

There’s going to be a spate of books published and a waterfall of op-ed articles written next year for the centenary of the 1917 Russian revolution. Think about all the offshore assets supporters who’ll be saying that Kerensky was right and Lenin & Co terribly wrong. Kerensky was a quasi redmondite I suppose?


Ed - April 13, 2016

God, if you think the 1916 stuff is bad, just wait for the crap about Russia. The leading English-language historians like Orlando Figes and Robert Service can get away with publishing any old half-baked, poorly researched (or just plain wrong) crap as long as it’s anti-Bolshevik.


Expect the 2017 brand of revolution-bashing to have an especially shrill tone because it’ll be directed against such sinister bloodthirsty Bolsheviks as Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Pablo Iglesias or Yanis Varoufakis. Their proposals for moderate social-democratic reforms are clearly the first step towards the Gulag.


RosencrantzisDead - April 13, 2016

No doubt we will get a piece where they argue that full communism was on the cards and would have been granted if they had just waited.


Joe - April 13, 2016


But funny enough it’s not just orthodoxy historians or others who would make that claim. There are many leftists and socialists who say that the Bolsheviks taking and wielding of power set back the cause of socialism …and delayed the possibility/inevitability of ‘full communism’.


Alibaba - April 13, 2016

There are many who think otherwise about the Bolsheviks. I am remembering the wise remark of Terry Eagleton who said “You do not disown your belief in socialism just because Stalin’s executioners claimed to believe in it too.”


Pasionaro - April 13, 2016

And that abolishing a Constituent Assembly with a clear socialist (non-Bolshevik) majority was a travesty of both revolution and democracy. Anyone want to have a go at justifying that one?

Adam Tooze’s recent book The Deluge includes an interesting reassessment of Kerensky and Lenin. It emphasizes in particular how the Bolsheviks had become de facto German allies by mid-1918.


WorldbyStorm - April 13, 2016

Problematic is the kind way to put that event.


oconnorlysaght - April 13, 2016

The workers’ republic had been established and democratic control had moved on from constituent assemblies (particularly constituent assemblies elected with slates that had been split since they had been drafted). To dissolve it without providing for a new one for the petty bourgeoisie to let off steam was probably an error. Trotsky himself felt that, with hindsight, it would have been better to postpone the assembly election until slates more representative changed popular feeling. That would have meant separate slated for left and right Social Revolutionaries.
As for bloody Kerensky, more than thirty years later, he was still insisting that he wanted socialism and democracy, but only after Russia had won the war.


Jolly Red Giant - April 13, 2016

Furthermore – the Social Revolutionaries had moved significantly to the left between the selection of candidates and the election. Right-wing SRs were elected on the basis of the left of thee SR supporting the revolution – leading to an unrepresentative assembly.


Ed - April 13, 2016

‘De facto German allies’ is not a novel argument, it’s very long in the tooth, but complete rubbish in any case. The German ruling class feared and despised the Bolsheviks. The Soviet leadership didn’t sign the extortionate Brest-Litovsk peace treaty because they were ‘de facto allies’, there was simply no way of keeping the Russian war effort going, the army had fallen apart. Lenin was overruled at first when he wanted to sign a lousy peace deal, the majority of his party wanted to fight on, but they quickly realized that it wasn’t an option, they didn’t have an army they could fight with. When the Germans ordered their army to attack, they marched for hundreds of miles without facing any opposition; Lenin got his way then. His logic was that revolution in Europe would overturn Brest-Litovsk before too long anyway; that actually proved to be correct, for Germany at any rate; the USSR soon recovered all the lost territory from Germany after 1918.


WorldbyStorm - April 14, 2016

Though if the assembly was unrepresentative why not go for a second election? And in truth the SR’s left or right didn’t fare so terribly well subsequently.


gendjinn - April 13, 2016

I was quite persuaded by Orlando Figes’ book where he makes the argument that every single group/individual that was capable/willing of compromise was co-opted, marginalised, disposed of by the Tsarist regime.

Which only left the hard liners whom had seen every single effort at compromise with the regime betrayed.


Alibaba - April 13, 2016

Pasionaro: I must confess that I am not entirely clear on what you mean by your post. I understand it as saying that the Bolsheviks destroyed workers democracy and created a legacy that has plagued the Left. One has to use the necessary unfolding of the historic process as a measuring rod in assessing the role of the Bolsheviks. What was at stake in 1917 was the opening revolutionary process, the World War and the tide of reaction being built up by the bourgeois Provisional Government of Kerensky. Slaughter and starvation was the order of the day. The October seizure of power was made by the massively numbered Bolshevik party swept to power promising Bread, Land and Peace. The Bolsheviks then opened up negotiations for peace with Germany and concluded it with the Brest Litovsk Treaty which ended war. Did they make concessions to imperialism to get a deal? Yes, they did. However, to claim that they were “de facto German allies” is a misrepresentation.

Of course, Bolsheviks took measures subsequently there were counter-productive and downright wrong, although they were considered lesser evils. Everything was done in the context of backwardness and Civil War. Those weaknesses have lessons for us all. That doesn’t mean we have to demonise Bolshevism. Another thing: the enormous intellectual and physical damage that Marxism suffered in the twentieth century as a direct result of Stalinism (and the notion that this degeneration was inevitable) is something crucial for anyone to address if they seek to challenge and/or destroy capitalism.

i believe the process of challenging and revising should be an integral part of all historical and political writing. I would like to look at corrections and reconsiderations following new developments and new publications.


8. botheredbarney - April 13, 2016

And as for Christianity, George Bernard Shaw memorably said that it hadn’t failed, it simply hadn’t been tried.


Starkadder - April 13, 2016

I believe it was actually G. K. Chesterton would said that, in his
book “What’s Wrong With The World”:

” The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”


Dr.Nightdub - April 14, 2016

Echoes of Ghandhi, being interviewed by a western journalist::
– What do you think of western civilisation?
– I think it’d be a great idea.


9. Dr. X - April 13, 2016

Let’s not forget though, that revision is the basic activity of historians (I’m drawing a clear distinction between revision and falsification, obviously).

Liked by 2 people

10. Brian Hanley - April 13, 2016
CL - April 13, 2016

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”-Thomas Jefferson.


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