“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.