The seismic tremors that the October Revolution sent through Germany, Hungary and Italy are well known to students of the post-World War One Europe. Less familiar is the fact that the revolution’s ripple effects were felt as far to the west as Ireland. This April will mark the centennial of an episode in Irish revolutionary history known at the time—and since—as the Limerick Soviet. When ten thousand people turned out for the funeral of Robbie Byrne, an Irish Republican Army adjutant, and delegate to the Trades Council of Limerick City, who died at British hands, the city was placed under martial law, and citizens were forced to carry written passes to leave and enter the town. The Trades Council answered these repressive measures with a general strike, run by a committee of union delegates. For twelve days Limerick City was in the hands of its workers, who put out a newspaper, organized the food supply, ran public transportation, and even issued their own currency. When a journalist compared the strike committee to the workers councils (soviets) that had taken power in Russia nearly two years before, it was a title that the working class of Limerick City proudly and enthusiastically embraced, prompting workers in scores of lesser labor actions throughout the country to call their strike committees soviets.
The Limerick Soviet marked a hopeful intersection of the workers’ movement with the Irish war of independence, which had begun a few months earlier. It held out the promise that the working class would take the lead in the struggle for Ireland’s freedom. Both the promise, and the disappointment as the soviet came to an end, hold valuable lessons for the struggles of today.
Join us for a showing of The Limerick Soviet, an hour-long documentary on the above events, produced by today’s Limerick trade unionists. The film will be followed by discussion and song. Refreshments will be available. Celebrate the St. Patrick’s Day weekend with a toast to Ireland’s rich revolutionary tradition. (No plastic shamrocks or green beer permitted.)
Special thanks to Frameworks Films of Cork, Ireland and to the Limerick Council of Trade Unions, producers of The Limerick Soviet.