“Lenin and Trotsky in Russia battling against lies and force; Labour struggling against its self-appointed tyrants; the Gaelic tongue striving against the foreign jargon; Ireland striving against England all are but phases of the single war that still rages undecided, though certain in its outcome the warfare of the Christian State against the Gates of Hell.” – Aodh de Blácam, ‘Towards the Republic’
The renewed focus on the thought of Aodh de Blácam is one of the few positive developments in 2021. His importance to Irish rightist thinkers, past and present, is evinced by his interest in Spenglerian morphology, his explicit Catholicism, his organicist conception of the social order, as well as his support for General Franco.
I speculate that the ability to walk the line between the excesses of cosmopolitanism and parochialism – or, between xenophilic West Brittery and kitsch Paddywackery – assists the allure of de Blácam as a theoretical touchstone. His work betrays a breadth of influences, both Irish and Foreign. Unafraid to tackle the ideational novelties of the continent, de Blácam nevertheless managed to relate the high-brow conceptual products of Parisian salons or Teutonic speakeasies to his nation.
Heretofore, the Burkean has published three articles relating to de Blácam: an extract from ‘What Sinn Féin Stands For’, his response to Oswald Spengler, and my exposition of his thought. Bar a paragraph in my exposition, these articles would impel the reader to believe that de Blácam was a consistent stalwart of rightist politics.
However, ‘Towards the Republic’, de Blácam’s inaugural work, partially disrupts this interpretation with its celebration of socialism – the following article exclusively focuses on this aspect of the book. A number of other thinkers, from both the right and the left, will be touched up when discussing or supplementing de Blácam’s views regarding socialism.
Did the Irish Invent Bolshevism?
Editor’s Note: The incessant “we wuz kangz” jokes (unbefitting of Ireland’s premier centre-right Yoruba-supremacist publication) impelled us to place a ‘juju’ curse on Ulick until he re-wrote this section.
Written in the wake of the Bolshevik revolution, its presence looms over ‘Towards the Republic’. But de Blácam’s idolisation of Bolshevism was by no means an anomaly. Georges Sorel, an atypical Communist with the morals of Homer, praised the “anti-elitism” of Lenin’s revolution – quite bizarre in hindsight.
Not to be outdone by the French syndicalist, de Blácam goes a step further toward outlandishness, and contends, on page 79, that Bolshevism was “born in Ireland”. But is this really a ludicrous claim?
Naturally, he’s not asserting that Lenin or Trotsky were Irish. Rather, his claim rests upon the influence that James Connolly had on the aforesaid: “the Bolsheviks… were led by men who studied Connolly’s writings and watched his career”. Even his interpretation of Connolly’s socialism is peculiar.
Connolly, for de Blácam, was not an expounder of abstract revolutionary dogma. ‘Towards the Republic’ offers a radical re-interpretation, casting Connolly as a radical Gaelic restorationist; like an ouroboros, traditionalism and socialism meet. Regarding Connolly, he states:
“He examined the Gaelic State, and found it to have been in the past an actual embodiment of the State that he was seeking in the future. Hence, from beginning with formulas necessarily of a somewhat doctrinaire character, he came to declare, not that the Irish people must construct a state on such-and-such theoretic lines, but that they must restore their native and submerged constitution”.
Although only in passing, de Blácam mentions a figure whose thought grants greater credence, not only to the ‘Bolshevism was invented in Ireland’ claim, but to a bolder postulation: the Irish invented Marxism. De Blácam states: “Yet he [Connolly] was also a follower of Thompson, the Irishman who founded Socialism”.
I first came across William Thompson some months ago through Desmond Fennell’s essay ‘Irish Socialist Thought’. Thompson was born to an ascendancy family in Cork in 1775. The thought of Saint-Simon was imbibed at a young age. As he matured, his two principal influences were Jeremy Bentham, to whom Thompson owed his utilitarianism, and the Welsh utopian socialist Robert Owen.
The distinction between utopian and scientific socialism dates back to the 19th century. Born of the zeitgeist of 18th century rationalism, utopian socialists carried forth the struggle of enlightenment and reason against retrograde injustice a step further than their predecessors. Friedrich Engels states:
“The demand for equality was no longer limited to political rights; it was extended also to the social conditions of individuals. It was not simply class privileges that were to be abolished, but class distinctions themselves”.
For the utopian socialist, “Socialism is the expression of absolute truth, reason and justice” – its efficacy hinges upon proving to others its veracity. Scientific socialists, in contradistinction, placed a greater emphasis on class interests and the causal role of economics in history than grand ideals. To quote Engels, again:
“Socialism was no longer an accidental discovery of this or that ingenious brain, but the necessary outcome of the struggle between two historically developed classes… Its task was no longer to manufacture a system of society as perfect as possible, but to examine the historico-economic succession of events from which these classes and their antagonism had of necessity sprung, and to discover in the economic conditions thus created the means of ending the conflict.”
Foreshadowing the scientific socialism of Marx and Engels, Thompson critiqued Owen’s suggestion that the rich could fund or create co-operative communities. He notes that the rich are the products of particular circumstances – circumstances impinging on their interests, impelling them to act in particular ways. Put differently, he argued that for all classes the belly comes before the brain, and hence most of the rich would never join the proletariat’s cause.
Other premonitions of Marxism in Thompsons thought include: the labour theory of value (he derived this from Ricardo, admittedly; as did Marx), the postulation that the state would wither away, class interest as the basis of the social order, and so on.
Therefore, it is not absurd to say that the Irish created socialism (in its scientific form), and hence Bolshevism – de Blácam vindicated.
Capitalism and Virtue
Returning to de Blácam, he argues that Capitalism is inimical to a virtuous society: “the Capitalistic Order… has trampled on art and virtue, and has favoured craft and cunning. It has made the basest qualities the most profitable, and has left refinement to languish and genius to beg”.
Such reasoning is reminiscent of the anti-capitalist thought of George Fitzhugh, the Confederacy’s foremost proponent of slavery – for both blacks and whites. Fitzhugh argued that de jure equality, as exists under capitalism, places the strong and the weak, now placed on an equal footing, in competition with each other, to the detriment of the latter.
Moreover, Fitzhugh contends that market competition engenders moral decay. For to act in a moral manner would be to put oneself in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis one’s competitor. On virtue in Liberal Capitalist society, Fitzhugh states: “In free society none but the selfish virtues are in repute, because none other help a man in the race of competition. In such society virtue loses all her loveliness, because of her selfish aims. Good men and bad men have the same end in view: self-promotion, self-elevation”.
A hierarchical society, in contrast, is conducive to virtue because the strong and the weak are placed in association with each other on an unequal footing, and not, therefore, in competition with each other. Hence, one’s neighbour can be viewed in paternalistic or dutiful terms, rather than through an avaricious lens.
Although positively disposed toward socialism and hostile to the egoism buttressed by capitalism, de Blácam allocates room for capitalists in his vision. He states: “it is quite conceivable that while the main industry of the country will be in the hands of industrial republics, there will be many a case of a big private enterprise under a patriotic and able director”. Similarly, the Éire Nua programme recognised that while key industries may be nationalised, “[p]rivate enterprise will still have a role to play in the economy”.
Towards the Republic’ has much else to say regarding socialism – from de Blácam’s critique of the guild system to his defence of socialism from a Catholic perspective. But commentary on each and every aspect pertinent to socialism would be exhaustive, for the reader, the editor, and myself – and I’m tired.
I would’ve written about de Blácam’s denigration of anglos as a servile race, thereafter touching on Arthur de Gobineau’s antipathy toward the French peasantry to perfect my analysis. But it’s 2 am. So, you’ll have to wait until I release my exposition and evaluation of Ireland’s foremost Arthur de Gobineau appreciator to learn more.