James Connolly

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James Connolly

Séamas Ó Conghaile
Born(1868-06-05)5 June 1868
Cowgate, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died12 May 1916(1916-05-12) (aged 47)
Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland
Political partySocial Democratic Federation (1892−1903)
Irish Socialist Republican Party (1896–1904)
Socialist Labor Party (1903–1907)
Irish Socialist Federation (1904–1910)
Socialist Party of America (1907–1910)
Irish Labour Party (1912–1916)}}

James Connolly (5 June 1868 – 12 May 1916) was an Irish Republican, Socialist, and trade union leader. Although mainly known for his position in Irish socialist and republican politics he also took a role in Scottish and Statesian politics. He was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and founder of the Irish Socialist Republican Party and the Irish Citizens Army.

Early Life[edit | edit source]

He was born on June 5, 1868 in Edinburgh to Irish immigrant parents. His uncle was an Irish revolutionary and he read Marx and Engels at an early age. At 14 he joined the British army in an attempt to escape poverty and was deployed to Ireland. He married Lillie Reynolds in 1890 and deserted the army in 1891.[1]

Political Organizing[edit | edit source]

He became involved in several Socialist groups in the 1890s and early 1900s including the Scottish Socialist Federation, for which he served as secretary after his brother. He was a founding member of the Irish Socialist Republican party in 1896.[1] [2]

In 1903 he immigrated to the United States. There he joined the Socialist Labor Party of America and the Socialist Party of America, as well as the Industrial Workers of the World, which he was a member of until his death.[3]

He returned to Ireland in 2010 and joined the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913 he played a leading role in the Dublin Lockout. During the 6 month long strike against William Martin Murphy's corporations the Irish Citizens Army was founded by James Connolly along with fellow Irish Socialist James Larkin. The Irish Citizens army was a militant republican and Socialist group.[4]

Easter Rising[edit | edit source]

James Connolly played a leading role in the 1916 Easter Rising from April 24-29. He signed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic which declared the start of the rising and was declared vice-president of the Irish Republic. The Irish Citizens Army, which Connolly led, was one of the groups participating in the rising. On April 27 he was seriously injured while commanding a garrison.

Along with most leaders of the rising Connolly was executed in the aftermath of the Easter Rising. Shortly before his death he reconverted to Catholicism, which he had abandoned as a young man. On May 12th he was taken from a military hospital in Dublin Castle, where he was being treated for his wounds, to Kilmainham Gaol. Here, as he was unable to stand, he was tied to a chair in the prison yard and shot by British soldiers, the final leader of the rising to be executed.[5] His last statement read in part,

"We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire, and to establish an Irish Republic. We believed that the call we then issued to the people of Ireland, was a nobler call, in a holier cause, than any call issued to them during this war, having any connection with the war. We succeeded in proving that Irishmen are ready to die endeavouring to win for Ireland those national rights which the British Government has been asking them to die to win for Belgium. As long as that remains the case, the cause of Irish freedom is safe.

Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.

I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys, and hundreds of Irish women and girls, were ready to affirm that truth, and to attest it with their lives if need be."[6]

Beliefs[edit | edit source]

In addition to being a Socialist Irish Republican, James Connolly held many strong beliefs. He was a staunch trade-unionist,[7] a supporter of the universal language Esperanto,[8] and a Feminist.[9]

Connolly believed that the Irish Republican movement was inseparable from Socialism, stating, “If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle., unless you set about the organization 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.”[10]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

James Connolly has become a symbol of Irish Republicanism and Socialism in Ireland. Several large murals honoring him exist in Ireland, especially in Belfast, where political murals are a common occurrence.[11] He is honored by many groups in Ireland, including the Connolly Youth Movement, formerly associated with the Communist Party of Ireland.[12] The Connolly Column, a group in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War was named in his honor.[13]

Connolly has also been appropriated and his legacy exploited by reactionary nationalists and Social Democrats in Ireland, with these groups distorting his views, actions, and life, as well as being recognized as a national hero by the British collaborator and Capitalist Government in the Republic of Ireland.[14]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "James Connolly". Multitext Project in Irish History.
  2. D'Arcy, Fergus A.. "Connolly, James" Dictionary of Irish Biography.
  3. CONOR MCCARTHY (2016-12-5). "James Connolly in America" Jacobin.
  4. "The Dublin 1913 Lockout". History Ireland.
  5. "James Connolly". BBC.
  6. "Last Statement of James Connolly". Sinn Fein.
  7. James Connolly (1910). Industrialism and the Trade Unions. International Socialist Review. [MIA]
  8. KEN KEABLE (2001-6-28). "James Connolly and Esperanto" An Poblacht.
  9. BERNADETTE KELLY (2003-7). "James Connolly: Irish rebel and feminist firebrand" Freedom Socialist Party.
  10. "James Connolly Quotes". Goodreads.
  11. "James Connolly" (2010-3-4). Virtual Belfast Mural Tour.
  12. "CYM Statement On Disaffiliation" (2021-1-18). Connolly Youth Movement.
  13. Michael O’Riordan (2005). "The Connolly Column: the story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic 1936–1939" History Ireland.
  14. Liam McNulty (2023-8-10). "The "legacy" of James Connolly" Workers Liberty.