Category Archives: James Connolly

Where, oh where, is our James Connolly?

by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh

“There is always some excuse ready for evasion. The difficulty is, that every party likes some part of the truth; no party likes it all; but we must have it all, every line of it. We want no popular editions and no philosophic selections—the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” —Terence MacSwiney, Principles of Freedom

SIPTU’s Head of Research publicly announced in 2001 that the union would be sponsoring “the publication in several volumes of all Connolly’s articles and letters”, which would “at last enable us to appreciate Connolly’s own originality and greatness to the full”.1 I happened to be sitting next to him on the platform, and in my own contribution I welcomed the announcement but hoped people wouldn’t take it as a signal to sit back and think all was now well in the world of publishing Connolly. I was aiming for that curious amalgam that goes under the name of ‘cautious optimism’, and probably came off as a moany old begrudger. In fact, I was guilty of being far too generous altogether.

Recovering Connolly

My presence on that platform was a result of the momentum that had been building up for five years previously. On the unveiling of a statue of Connolly in Dublin in 1996, I was allowed to point out in the programme that hundreds of his articles had never been made available since their original publication, and to republish the first Connolly work for twenty years.2 The year after, The Lost Writings was published, in which I assembled 65 articles of his unpublished since his execution. It never ceased to amaze me how many people were under the sincere impression up until then that all of Connolly’s work was available. The Collected Works title put on a reprint of previous Connolly selections in 1987-8 had been taken all too literally by many. Also in 1997 Red Banner began its ‘Hidden Connolly’ series, underlining that The Lost Writings wasn’t even the half of it.

A group including some prominent labour historians then tried to get an initiative off the ground which would assemble a team of researchers to publish all of Connolly’s works, an initiative which had the blessing of the Labour Party leader (dubious as that may be). But the SIPTU announcement cut the feet from under that. While ‘The Hidden Connolly’ continued to mine a seemingly inexhaustible seam, any impetus towards publishing Connolly’s complete writings was sucked into the Liberty Hall plughole.

The first fruit of SIPTU’s project appeared in 2005 in the shape of a Connolly biography by Dónal Nevin. It was a disappointing work, but promised Read the rest of this entry

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Lindie Naughton’s biography of Markievicz

I must admit that when I saw journalist Lindie Naughton had a book coming out on Markievicz my initial response was one of trepidation.  Even if it was a good book, what was there left to put into a Markievicz bio that hadn’t already been covered by Anne Marreco, Jacqueline Van Voris, Diana Norman and Anne Haverty?

To my delight – especially since I bought the book after a few internet chats with Lindie  – I can report that Lindie’s biography does bring more stuff to the table and is a really good read.  In fact, I found reading the lead-up to the Rising had me quite excited, indeed riveted.

Lindie has made a good deal of use of the Bureau of Military History archives, most particularly the witness statements from the revolutionary period.

She seems to have been through papers of the time pretty methodically, looking for more stuff by and about Markievicz, as well as using the body of Markievicz’s articles that I dug up in the 1980s and put up on this site when I started it.

One result is that, even though I think a know a lot about Markievicz, I have found out more by reading this book.  I think it’s also interesting that Lindie has brought a journalist’s research skills to the work – these are far superior to those of a so-called professional historian like Anne Matthews.  And, speaking of Matthews, Lindie puts another nail in the coffin of Matthews’ attempt to frame up Markievicz for shooting an unarmed Dublin cop at point-blank range and then gloating over it (Anne Haverty also demolishes this frame-up).  I did, however, think Lindie could have said a bit more about the problematic nature of the Geraldene Fitzgerald claim to have witnessed Markievicz killing the Dublin policeman and exulting over it, especially as she had mentioned to me some problems with the Fitzgerald statement.  While Anne Haverty utterly demolishes Matthews’ attempt to stitch up Markievicz on that one, Lindie does, however, show it to be highly unlikely that Markievicz did any such thing.  Also, Lindie notes that Connolly had specifically ordered ICA members not to shoot unarmed cops and soldiers.

Below is a page from Lindie’s bio.  It will give you a taste for the book and, I hope, encourage you to go out and buy it.  It deserves to sell well and be well-read.  The extract deals with some stuff at Liberty Hall a few weeks before the Rising:

By the time the police returned, Connolly, Constance and Helena Molony, all armed, were Read the rest of this entry

Willie Gallagher on 40th anniversary of IRSP

This is actually two years old, but I only just came across it.  It is a talk given by Willie Gallagher to the 2014 Irish Republican Socialist Party ard fheis in October 2014.

 

wullie gComrades,

the difficulty I had when first asked to give this presentation was ‘how do I condense 40yrs of our history into a 10 to 15 minute presentation. A definitive and detailed account would take many months, if not years, of research as well as interviewing scores of past activists. The following account is my no means definitive and of course is subject to criticism given the fact that it is laced with my own personal opinion and interpretation.

Even though this year is the 40th anniversary of our birth the Irish Republican Socialist Party can trace its roots back to James Connolly and the Irish Citizens Army.

After the border campaign in the 1950s, serious debate took place within the Republican Movement about how exactly it could become more relevant to the everyday needs of the people in an Ireland vastly different from the times of Connolly and the ICA.

The Republican Movement after the unsuccessful border campaign was not ideologically united and consisted of Read the rest of this entry

The evidence versus yet more Ann Matthews’ smears of Constance Markievicz

imagesI’ve stuck up several pieces so far which indicate how Ann Matthews is pursuing a vendetta against Constance Markievicz, one which plays fast and loose with facts.

Here’s yet another place where what Matthews dishes up is at best highly questionable and, in fact to put it bluntly, most likely untrue.

For instance, Matthews’ Renegades asserts that Markievicz did very little in Liberty Hall during the lockout other than flounce around making a show of herself.

Well, here is some testimony from Louie Bennett, a leading figure in the Irish labour movement for many years.  Bennett was a suffragist wh0 got involved with the radical end of the labour movement at the time of the 1913 lockout and subsequently played a leading role in the militant Irish Women Workers Union.  Here she is talking about how she secretly started going to Liberty Hall during the lockout:

“At that time I belonged to the respectable middle class and I did not dare admit to my home circle that I had run with the crowd to hear Jim Larkin, and crept like a culprit into Liberty Hall to see Madame Markievicz in a big overall, with sleeves rolled up, presiding over a cauldron of stew, surrounded by a crowd of gaunt women and children carrying bowls and cans.”  (Bennett talked to R.M. Fox about her life and this provided the basis for his 1958 book on her, Louie Bennett: her life and times, p42).

This suggests Markievicz worked hard in the soup kitchen and was not some dilettante who only appeared when photos were being taken, as suggested by O’Casey and picked up by Matthews.

Moreover, Matthews is highly selective about providing context.  If she wants to Read the rest of this entry

Workers and the way forward: a socialist-republican perspective

In order to get real action, the workers will need to act for themselves not rely on ICTU leadership

by Philip Ferguson

It seems a long time now since trade union members in the south of Ireland voted to reject Croke Park 11, a deal promoted by leaders of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in partnership with the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government in Dublin.  The current coalition, like the Fianna Fail/Green coalition that preceded it, has sought to make southern Irish workers pay for the financial crisis of Irish banks and the meltdown of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy.

For several decades the bulk of the union leadership has pushed tripartite deals with the bosses and the state, a ‘partnership’ model which has been held up by union leaderships as far afield as New Zealand as worth emulating.  But these tripartite deals did not deliver to workers even during the ‘good times’ of the ‘boom’ periods in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Now the boom has turned to bust the partnership model has simply locked unions into accepting responsibility for the financial crisis and agreeing to the austerity measures demanded by the Troika.

Rhetoric v resistance

The leadership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has engaged in some token rhetoric about ‘sharing the  burden’ of the crisis and they have marched workers up and down the hill and then sent them home a couple of times.  But, in general, they have acted as faithful lieutenants of the state and capital, serving more to Read the rest of this entry

Great night of music at the Connolly Festival

Anderson

Anderson

by Mick Healy

One of the highlights of the James Connolly Festival 2016 was the music night with Anderson and special guests Bad Sea and Ciaran Dwyer.

The concert in The New Theatre, Temple Bar, was probably the best show I’ve seen for a long time, with no set breaks as the performers cranked out tune after tune without a dull moment.

Ciaran Dwyer opened the show in without doubt his finest performance ever, singing a combination of sweet folk and country music, in this fantastic-sounding venue.  The headliner act, Anderson, who played an amazing  acoustic set from his album Patterns, took to the stage after Dwyer. This left it to the three piece Bad Sea to close the show with the most incredible performance from lead singer Ciara Thompson who lifted the roof with her magical voice. Great night of music.

Editor’s note: Mick is much too modest to mention it, but he was the organiser and the MC on the night – Phil.

The Irish counter-revolution in 2016

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Power in the streets

The article below is taken from the latest issue of the Socialist Democracy bulletin.  I think it’s an excellent article, although I disagree that the mantle of 1916 is irrelevant.

Words can’t describe the dreadful shambles of the 1916 centenary commemorations. At the heart of each new farce is the assertion of cultural and political relativism. The Citizen Army revolutionaries are the same as the constitutional nationalist Redmond who denounced them, as the British troops who shelled them, as the UVF sectarians who armed against an Irish democracy.

The Irish capitalist class presents this cultural stew because they are overcome with embarrassment and revulsion, forced to commemorate something they despise. They would much rather be drinking tea with the British royal family or selling off housing stock to vulture capitalists.

Because, after all, the main thing about the rebellion was that it was defeated. It sparked off broader struggles in Ireland that were eventually defeated. Those in charge of the centenary are not the inheritors of the revolution, but its gravediggers.

One outcome of the counter-revolution is that many of those claiming to be the opponents of the governing parties today have great trouble in applying the revolutionary message of 1916 today.

The rebels rose against imperialism, yet today imperialism is so deeply entrenched that it is invisible.

The Troika carries out regular inspections. The ECB and IMF issue warnings and instructions. In the midst of a housing famine NAMA sells off resources at knock down prices to vulture capitalists – a grotesque 21st century version of the Read the rest of this entry

Tommy McKearney to speak at Dublin March for Connolly

The veteran socialist-republican Tommy McKearney will be one of the speakers at the March For Connolly on May 14th in Dublin City.

The March For Connolly will mark the hundredth anniversary of the execution of James Connolly on May 12th 1916. McKearney, a former H-Block hunger-striker, author, trade unionist and anti-austerity activist, has consistently argued that socialism is the key to achieving Irish national, economic and social freedom.

The March For Connolly represents a once in a century opportunity for citizens to send a message to the political establishment – Connolly may be dead, but his politics are alive and well in the Ireland of 2016.

Join the March For Connolly, assembling at 2pm on May 14th at the Wolfe Tone Monument on Stephen’s Green for Parade to the GPO. Other speakers will be confirmed in the coming days.

Who drove the Rising?

imagesI’m well-disposed towards the 1916 Societies, so this short piece should be taken as a disagreement in a comradely spirit.

A recent article on their site says, “The driving force behind the Rising was the IRB; it was in effect a Fenian Rising.”  (See here.)

I think this is not only wrong historically but it has some important political implications for today too.

The IRB was not the driving force behind the Rising and nor could it be.  Connolly, Mallin, Markievicz and the Irish Citizen Army made up the driving force.  From the time the First World War broke out, Connolly determined on a Rising and began preparations.  The IRB position was rather more confused.  The left of the IRB – Clarke, Pearse, Mac Diarmada etc – also wanted a rising, but the situation in the IRB was far more complicated as the organisation contained far more equivocal figures, like Bulmer Hobson, and wavered continually.

The classic example is that the IRB capitulated to Redmond’s demand for a bunch of his sycophants – 25 of them I think! – to be added to the leading body of the Irish Volunteers.  If you are the driving force for an imminent rebellion you don’t agree to have a large number of opponents of such a rebellion being added to the leadership of what is ostensibly to be the main force of the rebellion.

And, utterly predictably, when war came, the Redmondite element of the Irish Volunteer leadership supported British imperialism and they and Redmond took the vast majority of the members of the Volunteers out of the movement and into the British Army and onto the imperialist killing fields in France.  The IRB leaders who were responsible for the capitulation of Redmond had not only made a serious political error, they had in effect sabotaged the Volunteers.

While the IRB floundered about, with its left elements wanting an insurrection but not really understanding how to proceed, Connolly was pursuing a consistent Read the rest of this entry

Connolly, the Dublin Steampacket Company dispute and the 1916 Rising

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“The cause of Labour is the cause of Ireland; the cause of Ireland is the cause of Labour. They cannot be dissevered” – James Connolly

The article below is an extended version of a paper given to the Dublin Dockworkers’ Preservation Society on 23 May 2015.  Thanks to the author for sending this fascinating article to the blog.

by D.R. O’Connor Lysaght

All too often, James Connolly’s last months tend to be seen as a period in which he compartmentalised his tasks, dividing his time between preparing a military uprising and, to a lesser extent, performing basic trade union work. An extreme variation of this is that he followed the majority of his socialist contemporaries in abandoning the class struggle at least until the end of the World War, if not altogether, and that, in any case, he never organised an actual, or, anyway a major strike.

None of these assumptions is true. The full facts of his wartime career show him to have been acting as a socialist, even if, as he admitted, other socialists would not understand.

Guiding strategy

His guiding strategy was summarised in the last paragraph of the Resolution on War, passed in 1907 by the Socialist International’s Congress at Stuttgart:
“In case war should break out… it is the duty of the working classes and their parliamentary representatives to intervene in favour of its speedy termination and with all their powers to utilise the economic and political crisis created by the war to rouse the masses and thereby to hasten the downfall of capitalist class rule.”

This has been ignored all too often by those trying to explain Connolly’s first World War strategy. This ignorance is helped by the fact that Read the rest of this entry