Bob Doyle (1916-2009) Commemoration(The last Irish Brigadista)O'Connell Street, DublinOil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás50cm x 60cm / 19.7 in x 23.6
On the 22 of January this year, one of Ireland’s last true communists died. Bob Doyle was born in Dublin in 1916 to a poor working class family. Bob had a difficult childhood.While his father was away at sea, his mother was interned in a mental asylum. Bob was sent to a convent to be educated. In his memoires, he recalled the peculiar mixture of nationalism and anti-semitism inculcated by the nuns. Bob, like so many of his generation, was brought up to be an obsequious Catholic. Yet ironically, it was the Catholic Church which inspired his conversion to communism. On the 27th of March 1933 in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, Bob listened to a sermon by a Jesuit priest condemning all forms of socialists whom he described as ‘vile creatures’. After the service, a mob of up to a thousand parishioners marched to Connolly House, the meeting place of Irish socialists, and set fire to the building. This virulent mixture of racism and anti-communism was propagated by a newspaper called Catholic Mind. In may 1934, an article appeared claiming that ‘ the founders of communism were all Jews’. The article goes on to name Marx, Engels, Lenin and a host of others in an evil Jewish conspiracy to take over the world! Ireland’s love-affair with fascism was eloquently expressed by the Fine Gael leader John Aloysius Costello, who wrote in the same year ‘The Blackshirts have been victorious in Italy; and Hitler’s brownshirts were victorious in Germany, as, assuredly, the Blueshirts will be victorious in the Irish> Free State.’In his book ‘An Irishman’s Fight Against Fascism’, Bob recalled his shame at having been among the Catholic mob> that attacked Connolly House. However, soon thereafter, he met Kit Conway who explained socialist theory to him. Bob soon became a committed communist vehemently opposing the rise of the staunchly Catholic blue-shirt fascists lead by Eoin O Duffy. In 1936, when the shadow of fascism was spreading throughout Europe, he enlisted with Frank Ryan, Micheal O Riordan and others as a brigadista of the 15th> International Brigade in the Spanish civil war to fight for the republicans. The trauma of Spains’s fascist past is still being felt today. Since the election of Zapatero in 2004- whose form of Neo-republicanism has been largely influenced by the Irish philosopher Philip Petit-the legacy of the Spanish Civil War is being discussed more openly. The divisions remain, with Aznar’s right-wing Parti Popular and the Catholic Church eager to promote historical amnesia, so that their support for Franco’s brutal dictatorship may be forgotten. One wonders how far the Catholic Church will go in their attempt to re-write history. Following the example of the previous Pope, Benedict XVI has recently attempted to cover up the crimes of his church by beatifying Pope Pius XII, a Nazi sympathiser. The Pontiff, himself a former member of the Hitler Youth, has recently re-instated Bishop Williamson, who denies that the Holocaust ever took place. None of this is surprising, as the evidence of history proves the ideological link between fascism and the Catholic Church. What is surprising, however, is that extreme> right-wing ideology has not yet been fully eradicated from mainstream European societies, and that there is a dangerous apathy shown by many to confront it. Responding to the financial crisis shortly before he died, Bob Doyle regretted that capitalism continues to oppress the> workers of the world. When the racist Eoin O Duffy died in 1944, he was given a state funeral. The Irish state, yet again, paid its respects to a Nazi sympathiser. There was no such funeral for Bob Doyle, a true republican with the courage to take up arms in the fight for social justice. The fact that the Labour Party would ally itself in the last general election with a party historically linked to fascism, shows the absurdity of the Irish democratic system, which consists principally of the right-wing Fianna Fáil and their opponents, the even more right-wing Fine Gael! I was amused by former TD Noel Tracey’s statemention November 7th last year accusing RTE of being ‘left-wing’. Needless to say, I am looking forward to ‘Red’ Telifís na h’ Éireann’s documentary on the history of Irish communism!