Saturday, 5 June 2021

Happy 153rd Birthday James Connolly

Today, 5th June 2021, marks the 153rd birthday of the iconic trade unionist, founder of the Irish Socialist Republican Party, and later, co-founder of the Irish Labour Party.

James Connolly was a strong opponent of English rule in Ireland and he commanded the Irish army during the 1916 Easter Rising (aka Easter Rebellion). This marked the first armed conflict of the Irish revolution and although 16 of its leaders were executed, it led to a huge rise in public support for Irish independence. 

Connolly was sentenced to death by firing squad on 12th May 1916 for his leading role in the Easter Rising. He was so badly injured from the conflict, he was unable to stand and was therefore tied to a chair before being shot dead. His body was then dumped into a mass grave without a coffin.

Connolly's execution serves as a timely reminder that capitalists throughout the world will stop at nothing, certainly not taking lives, in order to protect capital interests and maintain their empires.

Connolly was heavily influenced by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx and became an active participant in the Scottish Socialist Federation. He grew heavily involved in socialist politics during the 1880s and went on to become the founding editor of The Socialist newspaper and later, the editor of another socialist publication - The Free Press. He was also involved with many other publications throughout his career.

Connolly saw the fight for Irish independence and the fight to overthrow capitalism as one and the same, and hoped victory for republicans would help spread anti-imperialist sentiment worldwide. His views meant he was just as hated by Irish capitalists as by British imperialists.

In 1910, Connolly co-founded the Irish Labour Party, with James Larkin and William O'Brien, to be the political wing of the Irish Trades Union Congress. Connolly is regarded as one of the most influential figures of the socialist movement, not just in Ireland, but throughout the world.

Here are some his his greatest quotes:

"No revolutionary movement is complete without its poetical expression."
"The worker is the slave of capitalist society, the female worker is the slave of that slave." 
"Yes, friends, governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class." 

"The Irish people will only be free, when they own everything from the plough to the stars."

"Don't be 'practical' in politics. To be practical in that sense means that you have schooled yourself to think along the lines, and in the grooves that those who rob you would desire you to think."

"Under a socialist system every nation will be the supreme arbiter of its own destinies, national and international; will be forced into no alliance against its will, but will have its independence guaranteed and its freedom respected by the enlightened self-interest of the socialist democracy of the world."

"State ownership and control is not necessarily Socialism - if it were, then the Army, the Navy, the Police, the Judges, the Gaolers, the Informers, and the Hangmen, all would all be Socialist functionaries, as they are State officials - but the ownership by the State of all the land and materials for labour, combined with the co-operative control by the workers of such land and materials, would be Socialism."

"If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs."

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