THE MEANING OF ANARCHISM

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Captain Jack White (1879-1946): Any study of anarchism anywhere in Ireland would be amiss if it did not include mention of the first organiser of the Irish Citizen Army: republican, communist and then anarchist, Captain Jack White. Born at Whitehall, near Broughshane in County Antrim, White spent much of his childhood in England before joining the British Army and serving overseas. The details of his early life are fairly well documented and highlight his relatively wealthy, landed Protestant upbringing, his uneasy transition to a British Army officer and his first major clash with Roman Catholicism. The Russian revolutionary uprising of 1905 had a singular effect on White and he was drawn, particularly, to Leo Tolstoy, the eponymous creator of ‘Christian anarchism’ in the years after that event. Tolstoy’s pacifism probably appealed to White after his experiences in the Boer War. He resigned his commission soon after and worked for a while in Bohemia and then Canada (as a lumberjack), before moving to England and joining the anarchist commune at Whiteways, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, where he remained until 1912 or early 1913. After a brief spell in Ulster he moved to Dublin where he was involved with a small group of intellectuals known as the Civic League. The working class upsurge of the 1913 Lockout was entering a crucial stage and White was an enthusiastic supporter of the Irish Trades and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), and their strike against the capitalist oligarch and Irish nationalist newspaper baron, William Martin Murphy. White spoke and agitated alongside Jim Larkin and ‘Big Bill’ Haywood of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and initiated the idea of — and then commanded — the Irish Citizen Army, a worker’s militia, originally the ITGWU at arms in a sense and, through James Connolly’s influence, pliable in the hands of the military council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in the lead-up to the Easter Rising of 1916.

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Captain Jack White (1879-1946): Any study of anarchism anywhere in Ireland would be amiss if it did not include mention of the first organiser of the Irish Citizen Army: republican, communist and then anarchist, Captain Jack White. Born at Whitehall, near Broughshane in County Antrim, White spent much of his childhood in England before joining the British Army and serving overseas. The details of his early life are fairly well documented and highlight his relatively wealthy, landed Protestant upbringing, his uneasy transition to a British Army officer and his first major clash with Roman Catholicism. The Russian revolutionary uprising of 1905 had a singular effect on White and he was drawn, particularly, to Leo Tolstoy, the eponymous creator of ‘Christian anarchism’ in the years after that event. Tolstoy’s pacifism probably appealed to White after his experiences in the Boer War. He resigned his commission soon after and worked for a while in Bohemia and then Canada (as a lumberjack), before moving to England and joining the anarchist commune at Whiteways, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, where he remained until 1912 or early 1913. After a brief spell in Ulster he moved to Dublin where he was involved with a small group of intellectuals known as the Civic League. The working class upsurge of the 1913 Lockout was entering a crucial stage and White was an enthusiastic supporter of the Irish Trades and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), and their strike against the capitalist oligarch and Irish nationalist newspaper baron, William Martin Murphy. White spoke and agitated alongside Jim Larkin and ‘Big Bill’ Haywood of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and initiated the idea of — and then commanded — the Irish Citizen Army, a worker’s militia, originally the ITGWU at arms in a sense and, through James Connolly’s influence, pliable in the hands of the military council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in the lead-up to the Easter Rising of 1916.