“… these are the workers who produce and reproduce urban life. And if we stop thinking about the production of single commodities like cars and widgets and whatever, and we started to think about all of those to produce and reproduce urban life as being the proletariat not simply of our times but backwardly-looking actually has always been a vigorous element in any revolutionary movement - it was central to the French Revolution, it was central to 1848, it was central in the Paris Commune, the Petrograd Soviet - you just go on and on and on, Shanghai Commune, you know it just goes on and on, and currently Tahir Square in Cario and all the rest of it. And so you see that that can come an organising principle, and that the city itself, by virtue of its heterogeneity and by virtue of the interconnectedness that necessarily exists in a city can also be a centre of political militancy. And people often don’t look at that. (David Harvey, April 2012).”
The anniversary of the 1913 lockout is coming up next year and there’s a lot of talk about how to mark the occasion. It strikes me that if we look at 1913 not in terms of Larkin and Martin Murphy, but in terms of the organisation of the Dublin working class on spatial lines, then a very different (and quite contemporaneous) event begins to emerge.
Larkin knew that transport was the key to the commerce of Dublin city, and he knew that if he could control the lines of transport within the city as well as those which supplied the city (docks and rail termini) then Irish labour would have the power to seriously confront indigenous Irish capital.
That idea of organising those who enable a city to produce and reproduce itself has lessons for us today and the teasing out of what that would mean would be a fitting tribute to the memory of 1913, to Larkinism, and to the radicalism of Dublin on the eve of the Great War.
The quote above is taken from a lecture Harvey gave at the London School of Economics last month. The extract where he talks about organising the sector of the working class which enable the city to function is below.