THE LONG-LIVED PHOENIX
“If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over
Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic,
your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule
you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through the whole array
of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country”
FROM the close of the Dail debate the “Treaty” party held the initiative. Its policy was to press ahead with establishing the provisional government, hold a general election as soon as possible and set up the Free State. That Northern Ireland’s part in this was no more than a legal fiction was clear from the fact that the election was to be confined to twenty-six counties. Griffith seems to have been in little doubt that the institution of bourgeois class power in twenty-six counties took precedence over the reunification of the country. Hence the brief period of willing co-operation with imperialism, in which Ministers flitted to England and back like butterflies in a field of thistles. The business classes applauded. For the first time since the collapse of Redmondism there was a policy they could make their own. At last they hoped for freedom from their humiliating dependence on the lower orders. Goodbody’s took a full page advertisement in the Freeman s fournal of 9th January. “What is Ireland clamouring for?” they asked the nation. The answer was “Peace”.
Beyond this the pro-Treaty leaders found a complex situation in which flexible manoeuvring was required. The petit-bourgeois alliance of 1917 was now in process of disintegration. But the dissident fragment that could not be fitted into the new class alignment was too weighty for compulsion. It must be coaxed into conformity with bourgeois development. For attaining this end Griffith and Mulcahy were able to rely on the fact that they were not recognisably bourgeois themselves. They strove to create the illusion that the counter-revolution continued the revolution. By this means they pinned their former colleagues to the past, when their sole hope lay in making a complete break from it, making common cause with the workers, small farmers,