Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Was Pearse a proto-fascist?


Umberto Eco attempted to define the characteristics of proto-fascism as the "cult of tradition, a rejection of modernism, the cult of action for action's sake, life lived for struggle, and a fear of difference".

The Nazis sprang out of the aftermath of the First World War, and harked back to the rampant nationalism of that time. Their ideas of nationhood were classically proto-fascist, based as they were on notions of race, land, ancient myth and what they saw as a mystical association of the German Volk with the soil of Germany - including those parts ceded by the Treaty of Versailles - which they called "Blut und Boden" (blood and soil).

They rejected modernity - embodied, for them, in the admittedly disastrous form of the penally constrained Weimar Republic - pining instead for aspects of the old, militaristic, Imperial, pre-war past. Their 'philosophy' was also deeply entrenched in myth and an idealised, insular, folk-based past.

It could be alleged that the ideas of Pearse were not very far removed from the type of thinking that spawned Nazism, based as they were on notions of a homogenous Gaelic past, which excluded all other influences:

"For Pearse, the idea of a blood sacrifice had additional appeal. Even as a child, he had unusual fantasies of self-sacrifice for his country, derived from Celtic myths and religious writings." - Source, BBC website/history/Easter Rising.

Pearse's penchant for the idea of 'blood sacrifice' is further illustrated by the following quotes:

"Bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing" - 1913

and

"The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed by the red wind of the battlefield' - 1915


Admittedly, such strange ideas were not unique to Pearse at that time - many extreme nationalists throughout Europe had similarly rabid beliefs - but the interesting thing is that these ideas were rejected for the nonsense they were after the slaughter of the First World War. Indeed it was only the fascists, with their reactionary outlook and rejection of democracy and progress, who clung to them - with the terrible consequences of further war and mass genocide.

While it is true that not all those that took part in the Easter Rising shared the same outlook as Pearse - Connolly, for instance, had a socialist agenda - it is telling that Pearse is still viewed with such an uncritical eye by Irish nationalists today, and is held in general high esteem by the wider public.

Indeed, it might be argued that we can only consider ourselves a mature pluralistic republic when we can see Padraig Pearse for the proto-fascist reactionary he really was.

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2 comments:

Kevin Taylor said...

In an island where the majority of people wanted Ireland to have an independent say in its own affairs, Pearse rebelled. To actually compare Pearse to imperialists is baffling considering the whole concept of self-determination for every nation is by its nature anti-imperialistic. I understand that Pearse's deep sense of nationalism is hard to relate to, but to sacrifice oneself in order to inspire a revolt against colonialism is clearly anti-fascist. Your treatment of him hear is harsh and unwarranted in my opinion.

The Gombeen Man said...

"..but to sacrifice oneself in order to inspire a revolt against colonialism is clearly anti-fascist".

No, it isn't. Fighting the Nazis was anti-fascist. Fighting Franco was anti-fascist. Fighting the BNP is anti-fascist.

Pearse was a proto-fascist by the terms I quote in the blog. He was a narrow bourgeois Catholic nationalist who envisaged a tea-total Catholic republic.

He would have been pissed-0off that the State he helped create did not turn out quite reactionary and priest-ridden enough for him.

And dying for something does not automatically make a cause worthwhile, be it 9/11 or the Taliban's campaign to use "resistance" to turn the clock back there.

Or 1916.

And those who use, parrot-like, the phrase "imperialism" might like to ponder how this country is an economic and military landing stage for the greatest imperial power the world has ever known... the USA.