“Marx and Engels studied the forms of English colonial rule in the subsequent periods. For them the penal laws issued at the end of the seventeenth century on the pretext of combating Catholic plots, and enforced almost throughout the eighteenth century, were a tool for the final expropriation and enslavement of the Irish people, robbing them of political and civil rights, rooting out their national culture, customs and traditions. Marx and Engels demonstrated the colonialist nature of the Act of Union of 1801, and stressed that it was a sequel to the suppression of the Irish rising of 1798, the military occupation and the pressure brutally brought to bear on the Irish Parliament. The Union robbed the Irish of the gains made during the national revival in the latter decades of the eighteenth century, when the English Government was compelled, under pressure of the American and French revolutions, to grant important concessions, to repeal most of the penal laws and to recognise Irish parliamentary autonomy. The Union abolished the Irish Parliament and ushered in a new phase in Britain’s colonial rule. The protective tariffs passed by the Irish Parliament were lifted as a result, and Ireland’s budding industries were crippled. Farming became practically the only activity to which the local population could apply itself. “The people had now before them,” Marx wrote, “the choice between the occupation of land, ‘at any rent’, or ‘starvation'”.  The Union established a system of plunder of the Irish peasants by landlords and middlemen (Marx called it a “system of rack-renting”) which combined the worst features of capitalist exploitation with appropriation, by semi-feudal methods, of the surplus (and all too often the necessary) product. This is shown by Marx in ‘Capital’ (Vol. III) and by Engels in his letter to N.F. Danielson of June 10, 1890. The English ruling classes, Marx wrote in his article, “The Indian Question – Irish Tenant Right”, created in Ireland “those abominable ‘conditions of society’ which enable a small ‘caste’ of rapacious lordlings to dictate to the Irish people the terms on which they shall be allowed to hold the land and to live upon it” (see p. 61). This system of exploitation of the small tenant reduced the Irish population to appalling poverty, described in Engels’s ‘The Condition of the Working-Class in England’ and in other works of the founders of Marxism. Recurrent crop failures resulted in periodic famines. That of 1845-47 surpassed, however, anything that had been previously experienced. The almost total failure of the potato crop was rendered immeasurably more disastrous by the continued export of grain that was the basis of the landlords’ rent. No event has so impressed itself on the memory of the Irish people. “The Irish population”, Marx wrote, “decreased by two millions, some of whom starved, while others fled across the Atlantic” (see p. 95). In the mid-19th century the Irish were struck by a new disaster, in part precipitated by the famine. Landowners began to refuse to rent out the small strips of land customarily sown to grain or potatoes. Instead, they took up large-scale grazing, to the accompaniment of wholesale evictions. Marx and Engels saw this process as a fresh source of acute social and national contradictions”. (…) “In 1855-66,” Marx wrote, “1,032,694 Irishmen were displaced by 996,877 head of cattle”. The most urgent need was to end the forcible eviction of peasants and to stop the landlords, backed by the English authorities, from robbing the Irish farmers of their livelihood. This, Marx and Engels stressed, must be the first objective for the Irish national liberation movement” [Introduzione di L.I. Golman] [(in) Friedrich Engels Karl Marx, a cura di R. Dixon, Ireland and the Irish Question. A Collection of Writings by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1972]