‘A Bas le Gironde’: ‘Vive les Montagnards’

O U Rube
The Workers’ Republic, 21st January 1922

“The dead past is the guide o the living present.” And so, in this present period of transition in Ireland, it may not be amiss to take an historical survey of other countries that in the past were similarly situated.


The present political impasse bears some resemblance to the conditions in the American colonies before and after the war of Independence. The Republican Party, the real leaders of the agitation, afterwards of the fight, was compelled to fuse with the ‘Constitutional’ elements, under the Washington banner.

A wonderful Utopia offered to the commonalty by the bourgeois idealists during the war. After the struggle was won Washington, the last to accede to Republican ideals, was in the ascendant, and Paine, the extremist, forgotten. The fact that the proposed Utopia has degenerated into the America of the Open Shop Movement (1), the land of Bisbee (2), Desert Trains, and Everett Massacres (3) is surely a circumstance worth remembering.


But socially and politically, perhaps France during the Revolution is a better illustration. This coincided with the collapse of the existing economic system. The part in the ascendance, after the Burning of the Bastille (the first manifestation) was the Gironde, the part of compromise. By catering to the aristocracy and the rising bourgeoisie, and attempting to reconcile their antagonistic economic interests, the enjoyed a temporary lease of power. Their main endeavour was to retain the monarchy, and to accomplish this that were perfectly willing to restrict its prerogatives and even to condemn it for its past offences.

Opposing the Gironde was the Jacobins, the part of the uncompromising Republicans, the political expression of the rising class. Apparently beaten at first, they were swept on the tide into power, the death of Antoinette being eh criterion of their success. (Incidentally they furnish a powerful illustration of the Communist position, that inevitably, and of necessity, a dictatorship of the dominant party is a feature of every Revolution.

But allied to the Jacobins, opposing the common foe, was the part of the awakening slaves, Les Montagnards. The fact of Marat, ‘Le Ami du Peuple’, being in collaboration with Danton and Robespierre conclusively proves the necessity of working with others of different views when both parties have an enemy in common. Substitute the ‘Monarchists’ for the Girondins, Republicans for the Jacobins, and Communists for the Montagnards, and the analogy is complete.

But the Monarchists of Ireland are the political party of the big imperial capitalists, the Republicans the party of the petty bourgeois and national capitalist, thus reversing the position in France. That all parties finally succumbed to a military dictatorship was a necessity of the political situation of the time, and shows the tactics of the bourgeois, whose protagonist Napoleon was, in every sense of the term.

Danton and Robespierre were not by any means the less representative of the bourgeois; they failed for the simple reason that (a) they were not efficient, and (b) because their class consciousness was not sufficiently developed. Here again is an answer to those industrial unionists and syndicalists who claim that they, and none but they, are the representatives of the working class.


Nearer our own times, Russia also proves a good illustration. Feudalism as represented by the Czar, overthrown by the Social Democrats (the party of Capitalism), and the Bolsheviks (the party of the masses). The Social Democrats, unable to prove their right to power, i.e., the feeding of the people, attempted to suppress their former allies. Not having sufficient power to enforce their edict, they were overthrown by the very forces they themselves had created. The history of the Irish movement during the last few years is too well known to require the application of the point.

And what can we learn from this? That our problems, though difficult, are by no means new ones. That the most efficiently organised of the contending economic interests will eventually succeed. That a reverse is not necessarily a defeat. That no economic interest can have two permanent protagonists, the most class conscious of the two will eventually dominate. That there is an absolute necessity of a Dictatorship during the period of transition fro one economic system to the other. And so, comrades, knowing all this and in the present crisis, let our slogan be - ‘A Bas le Gironde’: ‘Vive les Montagnards!’, which tanslated literally means: “Down with the Monarchists; Up the Reds!”

Footnotes by Ciaran Crossey:

  • “The open shop was the slogan adopted by United States employers in the first decade of the twentieth century in their attempt to drive unions out of the construction industry. “ Wikipedia, Accessed 317/7.

  • “On 12 July 1917, the Phelps Dodge Corporation deported 1,185 men from the town of Bisbee, Arizona. The company accused them of being members of the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical trade union. However, many of those who were deported were not Wobblies, as IWW members were referred to. In fact, some of those deported were not even on strike.

    On the morning of the 12th, 2,000 men from the Citizens Protective League and Workers Loyalty League, both pro-owner, anti-union groups, gathered in Bisbee and rounded up over 1,000 men, many of whom were not on strike. Men who refused to go back to work were put on boxcars and escorted by armed guards to Hermanas, New Mexico where they were left without any food or water. Two days later the army arrived and took the men to Columbus, New Mexico where a camp was prepared for them.” Accessed 31/7/7
  • “The Everett Massacre (also known as Bloody Sunday) was an armed confrontation between local authorities and members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union, commonly called "Wobblies", which took place in Everett, Washington on Sunday, November 5, 1916

    On the day of the massacre, about 300 members of the IWW boarded the steamers Verona and Calista from Seattle and headed north to Everett to attend a rally. The violence which erupted once the ships arrived in Everett was a result of a misunderstanding between the local citizens and the demonstrators. A day before the union members were to arrive, police in Everett had been informed incorrectly that a large group of armed anarchists were making their way to the city.


    Over 200 citizen deputies, under the authority of Snohomish County Sheriff Donald McRae, met in order to repel the "anarchists". As the IWW union boats made ready to dock, the sheriff informed them that they would not be allowed to land. In the resulting tension, a single shot was fired, followed by several minutes of chaotic shooting on both sides. Whether the first shot came from boat or dock was never determined. Passengers aboard the Verona rushed to the opposite side of the ship, nearly capsizing the vessel. Bullets pierced the pilot house, and the Verona's captain struggled to back it out of port. The Calista returned to Seattle, without trying to land.

    Death Toll

    At the end of the mayhem, 2 citizen deputies lay dead with 20 others wounded including the sheriff. The IWW officially listed 5 dead with 27 wounded, although it is speculated that as many as 12 IWW members may have been killed. As a result of the shootings, a company of naval militia were sent to Everett and Seattle to help maintain order.

    Upon returning to Seattle, 74 Wobblies were arrested as a direct result of the "Everett Massacre" including IWW leader Thomas H. Tracy. They were taken to the Snohomish County jail in Everett and charged with murder of the 2 deputies. After a two-month trial, Tracy was acquitted by a jury on May 5, 1917. Shortly thereafter, all charges were dropped against the remaining 73 defendants and they were released from jail.” Accessed, 31/7/7

    [On related notes, musician and activist Utah Philips recounts the story of this massacre differently. Check out his music, marvellous stuff. A 1916 booklet on the massacre is available by going to and looking for the Massacre. CC]

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