From the Archives March 2nd, 1935
Gen Eoin O’Duffy, leader of the Blueshirts, set out his alternatives to capitalism and communism
Speaking at a meeting in Dublin last night, General O’Duffy said that Irish workers were being attacked from two sides to-day. On the one hand they had springing up in Ireland a mushroom capitalism, as mean and as cruel as ever disgraced any country, with new magnates who are endeavouring to exploit the workers as callously as ever the old time bosses did before Labour organised to smash their power. It featured the “sweat shops” and the starvation wage. Child labour and the wholesale employment of women at small wages kept the masses of their men unemployed.
On the other hand, the Irish workers were menaced by Communism, and in the conditions which capitalism was producing, there was no doubt but that many would succumb to the wiles of the Communists, for capitalism, which had broken down so pitiably as a system throughout the world, is rushing to ruin in Ireland.
“Our new crop of Irish capitalist,” said General O’Duffy, “are perhaps the last of their kind which the world will see. Anyone who has given serious consideration to our problems, with our foreign markets so curtailed, with the value of our home market reduced because of the limitations in the purchasing power of the majority of our people, with taxation piling up, with farming, our principal industry, bankrupt, and with unemployment at an unprecedented height, must acknowledge that a reform – a revolutionary reform – of the existing capitalist system is long overdue.
“Between capitalism, in its last and most depraved stages, and Communism, which is clearly gaining ground, the Corporative System stands as the only avenue of escape for the workers.”
There were three types of Communism in Ireland to-day, he said. One, the pure Russian brand; the second, which the IRA advocated, and which demanded that the State should own all means of production; while, thirdly, there was that type towards which Fianna Fail seemed at one time to be inclining, which claimed that the land belonged to the community.
“If, for instance, a man holds a huge estate and will not cultivate it, while landless men are starving, then it is the right and the duty of the Government to come along and say: ‘Cultivate, or else get out and let someone else do it’ . . . The task of statesmanship was not to take the easy method of taxing to provide demoralising doles and free food, but to take up the problem of re-arranging the national economy so that all workers will be assured of a fair and ample return for their toil. It is this that the Blue Shirts hope to do by the introduction of the Corporative System – to reform the abuses of private property, not to do away with it; to clip the wings of greedy capitalism, and give the working man his chance to become a proprietor himself.
“If, because I advocate the Corporative System certain people cry ‘Mussolini’, then I can justly cry ‘Cromwell’. Mussolini wears a shirt as I do, and, if we follow the same logic, President de Valera is a Cromwellian.”
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Compiled by Joe Joyce