Thursday, August 16, 2007
Michael Collins and the Irish Revolution
This oft-quoted statement is a testament as to how diverse a society’s perception of historical figures can be. Different world leaders, especially revolutionaries are often portrayed in different respects, according to the ideological prism one uses to analyze the life of the world’s greatest men and women. Mao Zedong, for example, will always be remembered by the majority of the Chinese population who lived through the years prior to the 1949 Chinese revolution as the leader of a people’s movement that liberated Chinese society from a semi-feudal and semi-colonial system ruled by bourgeois compradors and big landowners under the auspices of foreign imperialism. He is also remembered by some sections of Chinese society as a ruthless dictator who insisted on an experimental utopian social system that led to the deaths of millions of his people due to hunger and famine. In contemporary history, on the other hand, Arab nationalists and anti-imperialists view the legacy of Saddam Hussein as a triumph of the repudiation of American intrusion into Arab soil, while American conservatives view his reign of terror as one of the most dastardly regimes the world has seen in the last fifty years. Nonetheless, it is this historical ambivalence that the life of Michael Collins as an Irish revolutionary shall be analyzed in this paper, especially on questions as to whether he can be considered a villain or a patriot.
Michael Collins was an Irish revolutionary who fervently sought the independence of
On the other hand, it can somehow be said that Collins model of political violence is comparable to the theory of armed struggle by Che Guevara, particularly his foco theory. Che Guevara believed that a single guerilla force, no matter how small, carrying out armed revolution in any country is capable of spreading like wildfire and inspiring the masses to join the revolution. Both of them believed in the necessity of guerilla warfare as the most effective tool at systematically reducing the strength of the enemy, especially an enemy with almost unlimited military resources fighting against a revolutionary movement with meager resources. It must also be said that both revolutionary leaders repudiated the grabbing of political power through an urban insurrection as it opened revolutionary movement and its supporters to the heavy weight of a counter-attack by enemy forces which might be utter detrimental to the revolutionary cause.
In all of these, though, it must be reiterated that despite the faults and failures of Michael Collins, especially when he capitulated to British forces instead of seeing the Irish revolution to its fruition, his life as an Irish patriot and hero can never be discounted. He lived at a concrete historical moment which challenged him and many other Irishmen to stand up against a mighty empire and determine their own destiny as a people.
- Castaneda, J. (1998). Comandante: The life and death of Ché Guevara. Vintage Publishing.
- Fox, R.M. (1943). The History of the Irish Citizen Army.
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- Hopkinson, M. Green Against Green, the Irish Civil War, pp.83-87
- Kostick, Conor & Collins. (2000). The Easter Rising.
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- Townshend, C. (2005). Easter 1916: the Irish rebellion. London: Allen Lane.