Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School has started

1st August

Timetable for Tuesday, 1st August 2017

1st August 2017, is Mother Jones Day in Cork and it is also the opening day of the 6th annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School in the Shandon area of the city.

Today’s events start with the official launch of this year’s festival by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Tony Fitzgerald at the Maldron Hotel.

After the opening ceremony takes place, at 2.30pm there will be a showing of “Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman” by Rosemary Feurer.

This will be followed at 3.00pm with a lecture by Julianna Minihan who will talk about the life and career of Florence Kelley entitled: “Slums, Factories and Child Labour: Florence Kelley (1859-1932)”.

At 4.00pm there will be a showing of “Mother Jones and her Children” by  Cork based Frameworks Films which was shot in Cork and the United States in 2014.  This will be followed by a discussion with the film-makers and others involved in the project.

At 7.30pm there will be a series of lectures (The 2017 Mother Jones Lectures) as follows:

  • “Revitalising the Labour Movement – What can we learn from the Justice for Clery’s Workers’ campaign victory?” – by Ethel Buckley of SIPTU
  • James Goltz of the United Mine Workers Association (USA) will formally present the proclamations from the AFL-CIO and UMWA (see news item on this site 31/8/2017) to view the proclamations
  • “Challenging Injustice, Inequality and the Unethical” – Ed Byrne, President of the ASTI.

The day winds down at 9.30pm with a session of music from the Cork Singers’ Club in the main bar at the Maldron Hotel.

 

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Origins and Lessons of the Spanish Civil War

Historian and author Harry Owens, will address the topic “Origins and Lessons of the Spanish Civil War” at the Maldron Hotel on Friday 4th August at 2.45.

Spain 1937

Anarchist militia from the National Confederation of Labour wave their flags and rifles for the camera in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. ca. 1937 Barcelona, Spain

The Spanish Civil War was one of the most significant events of the 20th century and became a frightening prelude to World War 2. While it was fundamentally a war between the Spanish people, it was really a battle between the establishment and the workers and peasants, between the forces of conservatism and those seeking progress. Massive foreign intervention ensured a bloody conflict, which resulted in a total defeat for the democratically elected government and its supporters, and consigned Spain and her people to almost 40 years of rule by a fascist government.

Looking at some figures to gauge the extent of the war, Andy Durgan in his book “The Spanish Civil War” (Palgrave Macmillan 2007 Studies in European History) estimates that around 350,000 people died during the period 1936-1939 and its aftermath, out of a population of 25 million.

barricade

Republican forces barricade

He concludes that about 100,000 people were executed by Franco’s Nationalists during the war itself and more than 20,000 soon afterwards. Hundreds of thousands were condemned to prison and exile, ostracism or poverty as Franco consolidated his power and as hunger and terror became official policy and many more died. Others estimate that 150,000 republican supporters  were summarily executed, and lie in unmarked mass graves all over Spain today, in what is now accepted as “the Spanish Holocaust “.

Durgan also contends that about 38,000 people were executed by the Republicans, about half in the first six weeks of the war. In the same period close to 7000 Catholic clergy were killed. This was accompanied by huge destruction of property, churches, and monasteries and was often the result of chaos, fear, ignorance and criminality.

The immediate background to this war began in early 1930s, which saw a new coalition of republicans and socialists come to power and challenge the total grip of the privileged elites which had dominated Spain for centuries. These elites consisted of the Royalty, large landowners, the Catholic Church and army officers. In stark contrast, landless labourers worked under feudal conditions for wealthy landowners in rural Spain while in urban areas, wealthy industrialists exploited the urban poor. One in four children went to bed hungry each night, women, the chattels of their husbands were largely uneducated, and had no vote. The productive power houses of Catalonia and the Basque country seeking a modern market economy, demanded independence.  These conflicts simmered under the surface.

Graham Coton painting of the bombing of Gernika / Guernica

Earlier insurrections by miners and workers in Asturias in Northern Spain in October 1934, were defeated after which the Army murdered several hundred striking miners. This brutality served as a foretaste of the cataclysm to come and ensured a total break between the two sides. It pitched the urban and rural poor against the privileged elites. Following the General Election of February 1936, a Popular front of the Left emerged victorious and set about giving effect to the long awaited land reforms and improvements in pay and working conditions so long demanded in the mills, factories and large businesses throughout Spain.

Conflict broke out quickly in July 1936 when the Army rebelled in Africa and while the initial mutiny was defeated by the workers militias of the socialist, communist and anarchist trade unions, the country descended into war when the Nationalists under Army Chief, General Francisco Franco established an alternative military controlled state at Burgos in the north of Spain.

There followed one of the most brutal and savage wars seen in Europe. The foreign intervention by Germany (17,000 troops) and Italy (70,000 troops) in terms of men and equipment including planes, along with almost 80,000 Moroccan soldiers contributed to the gradual erosion of the Republican/Popular Front territories. In spite of tremendous, brave and passionate resistance in defence of the elected government by the workers militias and volunteers, the resistance to the Franco onslaught was eventually overcome.

The Soviet Union assisted the Republic. The Communist Comintern, an organisation which advocated global communism, recruited and organised the International Brigades. Some 35,000 volunteers from 53 countries came to fight Franco along with several thousand others who fought with other left wing groups. These were actively involved in all of the severest fighting mainly used as shock troops. They suffered 80% attrition, with 30% killed in action. Their bravery and dedication could not be questioned in what afterwards was called the last just war.

The Spanish Civil war brought out the best in people but also the worst. The April 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Airforce foreshadowed the horror of the widespread indiscriminate bombing of civilians in World War 2. In remembering the battle of Jamara, the defence of Madrid, the battle of the Ebro, the courage of La Pasionaria and the slogan No Pasaran, Guadalajara, the uprising in Barcelona, the battle of Mazuco…………. the long and haunting legacy of Spain remains vivid. Poets and intellectuals such as Federico Garcia Lorca were murdered during the war.   The fight against fascism is commemorated by artists, poets and writers such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and George Orwell.

The Spanish working class challenged the entrenched elites in Spain, fought bravely and courageously for a democratic revolution against impossible odds. The powerful elites of Spain were joined by Hitler and Mussolini who tested their war machines and tactics. The impact of the German Condor Legion on the ground proved very effective in the actual fighting.

"Guernica"

Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica”

The political establishments ruling European democracies, largely sat back and failed to defend a democratically elected government from being overthrown. Could Russia have done more to properly arm the Republicans? Should the communists, socialists, anarchists and varied trade unionists have supported each other more effectively? Thousands of papers have been written and the discussions go on.

What is certain is that as a result of the defeat of the Republic, most of the Spanish people and in particular workers and peasants were consigned to almost 40 years of brutal repression until 1977. (Franco died in 1975). The Second World War soon broke out in Europe. Some historians have considered that had the Republican government/Popular Front defeated the forces of Franco, the Second World War might have been avoided. Yet could the poorly armed untrained republicans ever have defeated the might of the Spanish Army?

In the current volatile political climate which has seen Donald Trump become President of the USA, the British people vote to leave the European Union, the growth of right wing populism, the rise of Putin, are there enduring lessons to learned in relation to the Spanish Civil War? Are these still in any way relevant today?

Historian Harry Owens, who has spent a lifetime researching the Spanish Civil War, has visited Spain many times and has contributed to many books including Brigadista- An Irishman’s Fight Against Fascism- Bob Doyle, will consider this topic on Friday afternoon 4th August at the Maldron Hotel at 2.45.                   

 

“The Bolshevik Revolution – its Impact on Cork and the Irish Labour Movement”.

Petrograd

Russian Workers marching for bread and freedom, Petrograd 1917

On Friday morning 4th August at 11.00am at the Maldron Hotel, Historian Luke Dineen will present “The Bolshevik Revolution – Impact on Cork and Irish Labour”.

One hundred years ago, this Revolution changed the face of the world for the rest of the 20th Century, yet what impact if any did it have in Cork, in Ireland or indeed on the Irish labour movement? What did people know about it, how did they hear about it and did it make any difference to the revolutionary events unfolding here in this country?

Luke Dineen will bring his analysis to the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School.

Luke Dineen

Historian Luke Dineen

“In July 1917, the third anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, the situation looked hopeless for Europe’s working class. The ruling classes of Europe had needlessly sleepwalked the continent into the most destructive war the world had ever seen until that point, and it was the workers who suffered the most. Apart from provided the war’s cannon fodder, food shortages, unscrupulous employers and mass inflation had created a cost of living crisis that devastated their lives. But, little did they realise, all was about to change.

On 25 October 1917, Lenin’s Bolshevik Party, through its Red Guards, seized control of key government buildings in Russia. The following day, the Winter Palace was captured. The Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia – the course of history was profoundly changed forever. It was a move that shocked and inspired the world. Europe’s ruling classes trembled with fear at the prospect of the working class seizing power elsewhere. The workers of Europe, on the other hand, were inspired by the example of the Bolsheviks.

For a brief period, post-war Europe seemed to herald the beginning of a new dawn, where the injustices and inequalities of the past would be confined to the past. Russia, for so long Europe’s most backward, autocratic and oppressive country, was now a shining example of what could be achieved.

Dublin meeting

Contemporary poster advertising Dublin meeting to welcome the Bolshevik Revolution

 

The impact of the revolution was seismic. It spread to other parts of Europe when workers in Hungary, Italy and Germany rose to cast off the shackles of capitalism before they were violently suppressed by a reactionary alliance of state and fascist paramilitaries. But the revolution’s influence on the rest of the world did not die with these failed uprisings.

Indeed, it would have a deep impact on a revolution that was brewing on the other side of Europe, where the forces of imperialism were all too familiar and had been for centuries. In Ireland, the October Revolution left a deep imprint on the psyche of a labour movement that had been radicalised by the war years. Furthermore, imperialist intervention in Russia to crush the revolution resonated with a republican movement that had won popular support through its promise of casting off the yolk of British domination.

As we approach its centenary, it is timely to examine the influence of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution on Ireland, both in the immediate aftermath and in the subsequent years. This talk will outline that influence on the Irish labour movement, which was struggling for working-class emancipation amidst national revolution. It will also examine how the Bolsheviks influenced labour’s participation in a war that delivered partial independence.

Slums, Factories and Child Labour – Florence Kelley 1859-1932

 

Breaker Boys

Breaker Boys – young boys employed in US coalfields to break up large lumps of coal with metal bars. The work was dangerous and back-breaking. Photo: Lewis W. Hine via Wikimedia.

Julianna Minihan will present a paper entitled “Slums, Factories and Child Labour – Florence Kelley 1859-1932″ at the Maldron Hotel, Cork on the opening day of the Spirit of Mother Jones festival, Tuesday 1st August at 3.00pm.

Mother Jones has always been associated with campaigns again child labour and the famous March of the Mill Children in 1903, which she organised, made national headlines. However many other courageous women and men were also active on this issue, among them Florence Kelley, a contemporary of Mother Jones.

Florence Kelley

Florence Kelley (1859-1932)

Throughout her life, Florence Kelley questioned why social justice, and the politics of social justice, appealed more to the middle classes than to the poorer classes and working people.  She wrote and translated books and articles, and engaged in public speaking on social justice issues to educate people.  At the same time she seriously tackled poverty, exploitation, and particularly the plight of working children in her daily work.

Florence Kelley was born in Philadelphia in 1859; (one of her Kelly ancestors emigrated from Derry in the latter part of the 1600’s).  She travelled in Europe in 1883 with relatives, and visited industries in the English midlands with her father, who was a member of the American House of Representatives.  Soon afterwards she began studying at Zurich University, the first European University to allow men and women to study together.  She studied History, Economics, Politics and Socialism and met with many Socialists.  She wrote to Frederick Engels, asking his permission to translate his German-language book “The Condition of the Working Class in England”.  He agreed, and it was published.

She married and had three children, but eventually divorced and got custody of the children.  She published some articles in the 1880’s, stating that the employment of children under fourteen should be prohibited, and that schooling should be compulsory and available for all children.  She also wrote about the need for radical change in society, but her main concern was always child labour.

autobiography cover

Florence Kelley autobiography

 

She was involved in the Settlement House movement, and after her separation from her husband, she worked with Hull House in the slums in Chicago from the early 1890’s.  As a result of her work, she was appointed Chief factory inspector in Chicago, the first woman to have such a job in America.  She was very effective at reducing the amount of child labour, however, a new Governor of Illinois fired her and her team, replacing her with someone who would not prosecute unscrupulous factory owners and employers.

She went on to lead the National Consumers League, an early type of ‘Fair Trade’ organization, for thirty years.  Goods produced without employing child labour, and fulfilling certain other conditions, were awarded National Consumer League Labels.  Shoppers were encouraged to purchase such goods, and manufacturers were encouraged to have their goods qualify for the labels.  Florence Kelley died in 1932, and Laws prohibiting child labour were introduced after her death.

Florence Kelley spoke of Mother Jones in 1914 after the Ludlow Massacre and accused the American government of being so totally incapable “of handling one poor American rebel, the aged Mother Jones, aged, gray haired and bowed down with years of fighting against the men controlling this country.”

She referred later to “our own rebels…….one is a white-haired old woman who spends most of her time going in and out of prison”

Julianna Mnihan

Julianna Minihan – will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on 1st August

Julianna Minihan works in non-traditional employment in Cork.  She researches human rights, equality & social justice in the 1800’s. She is a fluent Irish speaker and has a keen interest in Irish place names and in Quaker history. Julianna will discuss child labour in America on Tuesday August 1st 2017 at 3pm at the Maldron Hotel in the context of the pioneering work of social reformer Florence Kelley.