March 20, 2007

"The Wind that Shakes the Barley"

From my upcoming American Conservative review:

Neoconservatives who extol Winston Churchill's adamancy never mention that in 1921, after Britain suffered no more than 700 army and police deaths in Ireland, he played a key role in negotiations with insurgents that resulted in Britain suddenly cutting and running from southern Ireland after 700 years of occupation.

Why did the UK, which sent 20,000 Tommies to their deaths on the first day of the Battle of the Somme a half decade earlier, not stay the course in Ireland? Ken Loach's film about Irish Republican Army gunmen in 1920-22, "The Wind that Shakes the Barley," which won the top prize at the 2006 Cannes festival, graphically conveys why the English, a civilized people, went home. Defeating a guerilla uprising broadly supported by the local populace requires a level of frightfulness that does not bear close inspection.

Loach, the 70-year-old English movie director, is an old-fashioned lefty of the didactic Marxist sort. His films include "A Contemporary Case for Common Ownership" and "Which Side Are You On?" Not surprisingly, these haven't made him a big name in America, but "Barley" is worth a watch. Loach is neither the most fluid of filmmakers nor the most historically trustworthy, but "Barley" is consistently informative about the Anglo-Irish War, if spectacularly wrong-headed about the subsequent Irish Civil War among the victors...

Compared to Britain, the Emerald Isle was smaller and rockier, so less populated. It was also more chaotic (no national king ever emerged), leaving it at its neighbor's highly limited mercy until its sons could win her freedom.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

27 comments:

Charley Farley said...

Steve, have you reviewed The Illusionist? If not, what did you think?

Fabio said...


Compared to Britain, the Emerald Isle was smaller and rockier..


Still is.

Ross said...

{ Why did the UK, which sent 20,000 Tommies to their deaths on the first day of the Battle of the Somme a half decade earlier, not stay the course in Ireland? }

The most likely answer is because the end result, southern Ireland as a self governing dominion of the British Empire, was more or less what would have emerged anyway had World War One not broken out. Far from being a struggle for 'freedom' as Loach portrays it, the war was a murderous farce that ensured the civil war and 50 years of stagnation.

The Irish writer Ruth Dudley Edwards had a good column on Ken Loach's approach to the issue.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=388256&in_page_id=1770

Irish Savant said...

My mother's family were heaviliy involved in the rebellion. She echoed Steve's point that if we had the Germans or Japs instead of the British it'd have been all over in a few months. They did have the necessary 'frightfullness' to do that, the British did not.

joshrandall said...

One thing that we'll probably never see is a fair and honest assessment of the Irish struggle for independence! I dont get why Steve says the British are a "civilized" nation,and therefore too "nice" to want to spill Irish blood--it seems they had no trouble spilling it,and with no CNN to watch! I understood that Lloyd George made it perfectly clear to Michael Collins that should he not accept the partition Britain would bring its full weight on the Irish people and crucify them. Should Ireland have eschewed independence and just remained a part of the Commonwealth? Well,shoudnt EVEYBODY have stayed in the Commonwealth? They wanted independence...the long,brutal,and all but genocidal occupation perhaps soured them on the joys of being "British subjects." Agree that the Civil War should never have happened--like another Civil War that comes to mind.

SFG said...

Actually, I think we should have let the South go. We'd have our welfare state and you'd have your independence. Everybody wins.

Anonymous said...

{ I understood that Lloyd George made it perfectly clear to Michael Collins that should he not accept the partition Britain would bring its full weight on the Irish people and crucify them. }

Good on Lloyd George for standing up for the right of Ulster protestants not to be forced into a state they had no wish to be part of.

Anonymous said...

If the US is still in Iraq 700 years from now, I'm sure everyone will agree to a cut and run

joshrandall said...

Damned unsporting of those insidious leprechauns who magically teleported the darling men of Scotland from their beloved country to the rocky land of Ulster! Of course,their wishes are pre-eminent! And had those knuckle-dragging idiots given the Irish a fair break in their own country,then the "Troubles" of N.I. would never have happened,and there would be no modern day IRA,or UDA and everyone would be better off for that! :)

Steve Sailer said...

Around 1895, I believe, the Tory government started using government funds to buy out absentee English landlords in Ireland and distribute the land to the tenants, creating a class of conservative smallholders. Thus, when independence came in 1922, Ireland avoided the kind of leftist revolution that afflicted other countries in the 20th Century. Granted, Ireland was pretty stagnant for a long time, but by 20th Century standards, the body count in Ireland was quite low.

Rosco MacDonalds said...

No historical king of Ireland - what about Brian Boru?

The Brits did the Irish a favor by imposing the English language, which enabled them to find success abroad. Sometimes a swift kick in the rear is the best thing that can happen to a people.

Ross said...

{ Damned unsporting of those insidious leprechauns who magically teleported the darling men of Scotland from their beloved country to the rocky land of Ulster! Of course,their wishes are pre-eminent! }

It does amuse me when plastic paddies make out that the Ulster proestests are invaders of some kind, when their ancestors have been in Ulster a lot longer than any European-Americans have been in North America. If the natives have the right to overrule everyome else's wishes in Ireland then why not in the US too?

{ And had those knuckle-dragging idiots given the Irish a fair break in their own country,then the "Troubles" of N.I. would never have happened }

The tales of Catholic oppression in Northern Ireland are wildly exagerated, in order to excuse later terrorist savagery, as bourne out by the large migration of Catholics from Eire to Northern Ireland. The protestant population south of the border declined from around 11% of the total to 3% in the first decade of independence.

SFG said...

Around 1895, I believe, the Tory government started using government funds to buy out absentee English landlords in Ireland and distribute the land to the tenants, creating a class of conservative smallholders. Thus, when independence came in 1922, Ireland avoided the kind of leftist revolution that afflicted other countries in the 20th Century. Granted, Ireland was pretty stagnant for a long time, but by 20th Century standards, the body count in Ireland was quite low.

Distributism in action! Wow, that's one of the most fascinating things I've ever heard! Steve, do you have a link?

Andrew said...

{It does amuse me when plastic paddies make out that the Ulster proestests are invaders of some kind, when their ancestors have been in Ulster a lot longer than any European-Americans have been in North America. If the natives have the right to overrule everyome else's wishes in Ireland then why not in the US too?}
A good point, but I was under the impression that the Plantation of Ulster occurred under James I - the same era in which Virginia and Massachussetts were founded.

Steve Sailer said...

The Tories spent a lot of taxpayer money to buy out landlords in Ireland. It was called "killing Home Rule with kindness."

In 1870 only 3% of Irish farmers owned their own land. By 1895, 12% did. By 1918, 64% did.

Not surprisingly then, although contrary to Ken Loach, few Irishmen wanted a socialist revolution when they got the Irish Free State in 1922. A basic rule of history is that farmers want to own the land they farm, and don't give a damn about socialism if they can get their land without it.

Here's an encyclopedia entry on Irish Land Acts:

http://www.answers.com/topic/irish-land-acts

Arthur L. Miller said...

I believe that if Ireland were more a republic and less a theocracy the insistence on Ulster staying British would largely subside. I have distant relatives who are Northern Irish "Protestants" in name only, they are atheists or agnostics in practice, but strongly support keeping the northern counties in the UK because they are against Catholic state power.

Anonymous said...

Loach as usual misses the point before and after.

Essentially, most of the British Population was sympathetic to one degree or another for Irish home rule and even independence. The Easter Rising did not generate much initial support, though the execution later of the plotters was seen as cruel and did much to galvanize the Irish population for independence.

Why did Churchill and the Brits let the Irish go? Make that deal? Because most of the British population in a democracy thought it was time to end British rule at least in the South. That makes Britain for better and worse a lot different than Japan or Germany.

Don't forget that shame over the blatant exploitation of the Irish during the Potato Famine had led to a Parliament very sympathetic to home rule during the late 19th Century. Heck home rule was granted during 1914 but WWI broke out. The Brits were already prepared to let Ireland go.

Valera of course besides being a Nazi Sympathizer (Ireland might as well have been a Nazi allied combatant, it sheltered U Boats and assisted Nazi attacks on convoys) was an idiot. He wanted to fight the Brits ala 1916, while Collins understood the political nature of the struggle and chose limited guerilla warfare.

Why did Ireland develop as a nation so late? One was it's excessive tribalism and inability to develop one unified King. The other was the weakness of the Irish versus the Vikings. Which retarded their national development given the presence of so many waterways for the longboats to travel, and the as noted poor soil that could not support agricultural surplus and so knights and part-time military musters as in France and England. Normans could afford mounted knights and groups of pikemen plus archers. The Irish had poor farmers / cattle rustlers with farm implements.

John of London said...

(the English, a civilized people, went home. Defeating a guerilla uprising broadly supported by the local populace requires a level of frightfulness that does not bear close inspection.)
The Irish were White (and UK citizens), so not eligible for the required level of frightfulness. Contrast what the British did in India at the same time (Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, etc. I believe it was General Dyer of the JBM who coined the term "frightfulness") and before and after . The Brititish suppression of the Indian "Mutiny" 1857-8 has been compared to Nazi operations in occupied Europe(note this is not the same thing as the Holocaust. Although the Bengal famine 1942 killed 6 million Indians). A more recent example of the British readiness to use frightfulness against Black rebels was the suppression of the "Mau Mau" uprising in Kenya. One rule about the British Empire: its real victims were never White people.

On a different point, while the Spanish-American Eduardo de Valera can be criticised for a lot, Irish neutrality in WW" was generally pro-Allied. I believe there were more Republic of Ireland citizens in the British forces than men from Northern Ireland.

Flash Harry said...

Was de Valera half-Spanish? According to Wikipedia:

Juan Vivion de Valera was the man Eamon de Valera maintained was his father. According to Eamon's account, Juan Vivion was a Spaniard who emigrated to America. There, he met Eamon's mother Kate Coll, who had immigrated from Knockmore in County Limerick, and married her in 1881, a year before Eamon's birth. Juan Vivion died in 1885 leaving his widow and child in poor circumstances [1]

Biographers of Eamon de Valera have failed to find any church or state record of the marriage. Furthermore, no birth, baptismal or death certificate has ever been found for an individual named Juan Vivion de Valera (or the alternative spelling de Valeros), leading modern scholars, including Eamon's biographer Tim Pat Coogan, to conclude that Kate Coll actually bore her son out of wedlock. Eamon then invented Juan Vivion de Valera to disguise his illegitimate birth.

Steve Sailer said...

I like Michael Collins a lot, the man of violence who eventually chose peace (more or less). De Valera, the math professor turned ideologue, is a less sympathetic character. Still, the worst thing you can say about the Ireland that de Valera ruled for so long was that it was really boring. And, by the standards of 20th Century Europe, boring ain't bad.

In Loach's leftwing fantasy that the opposition to Michael Collins' deal with Churchill was mostly Marxist revolutionaries, Ireland would have turned into another Spain in the 1930s. In reality, de Valera objected to Collins' treaty mostly on the grounds of nationalist principles -- swearing an oath of allegiance to the King of England, and letting the British keep to naval bases. Socialist revolution had nothing to do with it. (Oddly, the Irish Civil War wasn't really about Northern Ireland -- both Collins and De Valera thought the treaty gave them a good shot at getting the six counties back in the aftermath.)

Ross said...

{ Eduardo de Valera can be criticised for a lot, Irish neutrality in WW" was generally pro-Allied. }

Yes for example allied servicemen who parachuted into Ireland were allowed to go home wheras Germans were detained. Ireland did kind of the opposite to what various South American countries did, the likes of Brazil and Argentina were openly sympathetic to the Axis powers until a few months before the war ended when they flipped sides. De Valera only openly showed sympathy towards Hitler when the war was almost over.

The IRA were, unsurprisingly, active collabarators with the Nazis.

Anonymous said...

John in London: "I believe there were more Republic of Ireland citizens in the British forces than men from Northern Ireland."

In total or per capita, NI after all has a smaller population than Ireland.

Dave said...

Ross:

"Brazil and Argentina were openly sympathetic to the Axis powers...

You are confusing Brazil and Argentina. Argentina was clearly sympathetic to the Axis and only declared war on Germany in March of 1945. Brazil joined the Allies in January of 1942. As Frank McCann writes:

"Brazil took an active part in World War II as a supplier of strategic raw materials, as the site of important air and naval bases, as a skillful supporter of the United States in pan-American conferences, as a contributor of naval units, a combat fighter squadron and a 25,000 strong infantry division. It lost 1,889 soldiers and sailors, 31 merchant vessels, 3 warships, and 22 fighter aircraft."

Ross said...

Dave, you're quite right I was wrong to include Brazil as one of the examples.

Anonymous @ 1:48, Northern Ireland provided 50000 troops to the UK forces wheras Eire provided 70000. I don't know how many Irish troops enlisted with the US. My source is this- http://hnn.us/roundup/comments/5984.html

Alex(ei) said...

Let's say the British were civilized enough to detest violence against European civilians so close to home. Was there much uproar in the British press against the rounding-up of Boer women and children into concetration camps only two decades earlier, which resulted in about half of all Boer children dying?

Graham Asher said...

Yes, there was a huge uproar in Britain about the concentration camps in the Boer War. See "Second_Boer_War" in Wikipedia and search for the word 'uproar'.

In Britain there was also a continuous vociferous debate on the rights and wrongs of the war.

Concentration camps were not invented by the British, by the way, but the Spanish. That doesn't make them any better, I know.

John of London said...

"Was there much uproar in the British press against the rounding-up of Boer women and children into concetration camps only two decades earlier, which resulted in about half of all Boer children dying?"

(1) Yes, there was. See eg W.T. Stead. Contrast total indifference to eg German genocide of Hereros in SW Africa 1904 (Hermann Goering's father was in charge. Did HG get ideas from that?), mass-murder in suppression of Zulu uprising South Afroca 1906, etc.
(2) These were not concentration camps in the German sense, but a common tactic against rural guerrillas from Indian reservations in US Indian wars to "protected villages" in Malaya, Kenya, Vietnam etc.
(3) Boer deaths were due to crowding and dirt. Boers were a scattered rural population without immunity to diseases urban populations had survived in Childhood. There were epidemics in Boer army camps for the same reason. As for dirt, if Boer women were the same as late 20th century White South African women, they probably couldn't keep their camp quarters clean without their Black maids.
Why, in the long history of the British Empire on which the blood never dried (to quote a recent title) do so many British and American commentators keep on about the relative handful of White victims?