Culture and Revolution in Ireland
Date:1971
Organisation:Sinn Féin [Official]
Publication:Repsol Pamphlets
Series:Repsol Pamphlets, Number 2
Author:Eoin Ó Murchú
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

10th March 2014

This document issued in 1971 by Official Sinn Féin and written by Eoin Ó Murchú, engages with the issue of Culture and Revolution in Ireland. In the course of 24 pages it examines ‘What is Culture’, discusses ‘Native Irish Culture’, considers ‘Imperialism and Culture’ and ‘Socialism and Culture’ and then ‘Language and Culture’ and proposes a ‘Manifesto of the Cultural Revolution in Ireland’.

It is too long a document to give more than a brief overview but the Introduction will serve to offer some insight into its overall approach.

As noted in the Reamhra:

Culture is av dry wide term that embraces many meanings. Some associate culture with the individuals who talk about art and drama, the arty-set; others associate it with literature, art, music, etc., which people have produced; for us, revolutionaries, it has a wider and yet more specific, meaning – a meaning which places culture in its political context. Culture is the response of a people to the environment they live in. As such, the culture of a people includes every aspect of their lives – the way they work, eat, cohabit, play – and it is not confided to the artistic means which different civilisations have developed. What we as revolutionaries are concerned about in in this question of culture and art is the way people’s ideas and attitudes are formed, about the development of revolutionary consciousness.

Ó Murchú quotes Mao Tse Tung’s definition:

‘A given culture is the ideological reflection of the politics and economics of a given society’.

Ó Murchú argues that:

We will always find in our efforts to win the people over to support of our political and economic programme that what is clear to us is often vague and confusing to them. The culture of our present society is not one that encourages revolution, for the dominant economic and political ideas are those of the dominant class in Irish society, and that class obviously is opposed to the social revolution to which we are committed. The whole aim of the cultural apparatus of the state is to condition the people, through its educational system, the mass media of radio and newspapers, and through the general promotion of mythology and superstition.

Quoting Pearse he continues…

Pearse described the educational system that the English imperial government foisted on the Irish people as the ‘murder machine’. ‘The system has aimed at the substation for men and women of mere Things…but these Things have no allegiance. Like other Things they are for sale’.

He notes the ‘immediacy of the cultural question [which] can be seen from the fact of the economic and social existence of the Gaeltacht is so tenuous at the moment.

And he concludes:

…this paper does not pretend to be definitive on this matter of culture. It is not holy writ or dogma and the production of the lecture as a pamphlet is an attempt to widen the scope of our internal education programme.

If the subject is properly discussed and criticised we ail be able to make a programme of policy, perhaps on the lines indicated in the final section, which is called ‘The Manifesto of the Cultural Revolution in Ireland’.

Briefly in relation to the Manifesto, it is notable that he argues that:

Socialism needs artists and intellectuals who will [present the socialist view of humanity and of world progress]… and because only socialism in the modern, because only socialism is responsive to humanity, because only socialism can enrich humanity socialists therefore have the right to demand of artists and intellectuals that they champion the cause of the people in their writings and in their art. If they do not then the socialist movement will expose them for the defenders of imperialism that they must be.

He also suggests that:

The revival of Irish is an integral part of any cultural revolution in Ireland. This does not mean that every person will bee forced by some miraculous compulsion to speak Irish. What it means is that it just be the conscious policy of Irish revolutionaries to call for those measures that will assist the revival of the language: More time and programmes in Irish on television on radio, the bias of a revival programme must be towards the Gaeltacht, for the Culture of the Gaeltacht is a living and vital thing while that of the Galltacht in Irish is either an imitation of Imperialist culture or a weaker version of a pure original.

We must demand of all mass media, in the North as importantly as in the South, that else mass media be used to develop the living culture of working people. The Orangemen think that the Six County state is theirs, but there is as much time devoted to Orange culture on Northern television as there is to any other aspect of Irish culture.

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