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James Connolly - Nationalism, Socialism and Syndicalism

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Flava O Flav
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Oct 19 2015 12:06
James Connolly - Nationalism, Socialism and Syndicalism

Moving this discussion here from the Scmidt thread as it has the potential to take it off in a tangent:

anarchoanarchist wrote:
Quote:
Calling Connolly a nationalist is simplistic, but he definitely wasn't an anarchist, that was one of the things I found hard to swallow about Black Flame. Connolly was a socialist, a syndicalist and his 'nationalism' was firmly within the realms of taking your starting position from somewhere the people around you understand.

You're shitting me, right? Connolly wasn't a nationalist? How do you explain his support for reactionary "racial" preservation societies?

"These agencies, whether Irish Language movements, Literary Societies or Commemoration Committees, are undoubtedly doing a work of lasting benefit to this country in helping to save from extinction the precious racial and national history, language and characteristics of our people."
taken from https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1897/01/socnat.htm

Connolly was not only not an anarchist, he was hardly a leftist. The fact Schmidt the shit tried to appropriate the legacy of that racist marxist for anarchist history is just further proof Schmidt has had fascist inclinations for a long time.

Firstly I never said that Connolly didn't have nationalist leanings. If you read what I wrote you'll see that I said that it was a simplistic analysis to call him a nationalist. Secondly, I take offence at your categorisation of the Irish language movement and associated societies as racist, in fact I would go so far to say that such an analysis is in itself, a racist British supremacist one.

The politics of the late 19th and early 20th century were indellibly influenced by the Irish genocide (popularly called the famine - but it was not a famine as the potato was the only crop effected, there was plenty of food but it was taken out of the country by absentee landlords for foreign trade) of the 1840's and 50's that left one million dead and forced another million to emigrate, and of course by our standards today, those people were refugees.

And the famine/genocide of the 1840's wasn't an isolated event, the native Irish were subject to widespread ethnic cleansing from the time of the Tudors and taken to extreme levels during Cromwell's rule. The plantation of Ulster drove almost the entire population of four counties off the land and replaced them with settlers. The 1798 rebellion saw 50,000 civilian and military deaths and forced thousands of others to flee to 'the new world'.

In the majority of cases, it was the poor, predominantly Irish speaking catholics who were the victims of British imperial oppression and ethnic cleansing - the Irish Language movement and literary societies were a response to the the attempt at forcible destruction of an ethnicity. Any analysis of Irish politics of the early 20th century that doesn't take this into account is not just flawed, but toxic, for it categories an oppressed and super exploited, poor population as some sort of demagogue - mirroring the racist depictions of the Irish in the British press at the time. A clear case of when not siding with the oppressed, inadvertantly siding with the oppressor.

Now, you also claim that Connolly "was hardly a leftist". But in the very same article you selectively quote, he writes:

Quote:
This linking together of our national aspirations with the hopes of the men and women who have raised the standard of revolt against that system of capitalism and landlordism, of which the British Empire is the most aggressive type and resolute defender, should not, in any sense, import an element of discord into the ranks of earnest nationalists, and would serve to place us in touch with fresh reservoirs of moral and physical strength sufficient to lift the cause of Ireland to a more commanding position than it has occupied since the day of Benburb.

It may be pleaded that the ideal of a Socialist Republic, implying, as it does, a complete political and economic revolution would be sure to alienate all our middle-class and aristocratic supporters, who would dread the loss of their property and privileges.

What does this objection mean? That we must conciliate the privileged classes in Ireland!

He had been a member of the Scotish Socialist Federation, a founder member of the Socialist Labour Party. He emigrated to the United States and became an organiser for the IWW. On returning to Ireland was an organiser for the then syndicalist ITGWU and after the experience of police repression of the Dublin Lockout formed the Irish Citizens Army - a workers militia to defend strikes. He was also one of the few socialist leaders of the time to outright oppose the first world war - when the mainstream nationalist Irish Parliamentary Party were sending young Irish men to their deaths for the Empire in the hope of devolved government after the war. Connolly's leftist credentials are not in question. His 'nationalism' was part of his anti-imperialist internationalism.

He was certainly no anarchist, Irish anarchists pointed this out to Schmidt and LvdV prior to the publication of BF, but they went ahead with that, mistakingly claiming that as syndicalism was derived from anarchism, all syndicalists must therefore be virtually anarchists.

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Oct 19 2015 14:00

It's really simple. Anyone who speaks of the nation and national identity as this transhistorical entity, and who also goes out of his way to praise societies "helping to save from extinction the precious racial and national history, language and characteristics of our people" like Connolly did is objectively reactionary. No one here is defending the oppression the Irish took from the Brits, least of all me, but there's a difference between opposing oppression and seeking to protect your little racial and national identity.

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Oct 19 2015 14:20

I'll start the debate with an opposing point of view.

Born a mile or so from where I was brought up, Connolly was indeed a complex, complicated and contradictory figure but I have no trouble describing Connolly as a Marxist - but I would have to qualify it by adding that he was a very mistaken one.

Connolly's ideas were not fixed and they did evolve... He was also a member of the Social Democratic Federation and the Socialist League (which merged to form the Scottish Socialist Federation), SLP of America and then the Socialist Party of America. He was one of the founders of the Irish Socialist Republican Party , then the Irish Socialist Federation and next the Socialist Party of Ireland and later the Irish Labour Party.

He of course then died “Commandant-General Connolly of the Dublin Division of the Irish Republican Army”.

Connolly contended that religious faith and nationalist politics were compatible with the objective of establishing socialism. The creation of the Irish Republic has demonstrated all too clearly that a nation run by priests and armed by police and soldiers little different from the British variety is no step forward for the working class. All that Connolly's mistaken association of the concepts of nationalism and socialism has done has been to add to the confusion in working-class minds about what socialists really stand for. In practical terms, it has served to alienate the non-Roman Catholic, non-nationalistic Irish workers (many of them active in the trade unions) from anything they imagine to be socialist politics.

Yet he could write:

Quote:
“Ireland as distinct from her people is nothing to me; and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for ‘Ireland’ and yet can pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and suffering and the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland: aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women without burning to end it, is a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call ‘Ireland’”. 'The Coming Generation' 1900

He thought that the Catholic Church for its own opportunistic reasons would come on-side

Quote:
"...the man who imagines that in the supreme hour of the proletarian struggle for victory the Church will definitely line up with the forces of capitalism, and pledge her very existence as a Church upon the hazardous chance of the capitalists winning, simply does not understand the first thing about the policy of the Church in the social or political revolutions of the past. Just as in Ireland the Church denounced every Irish revolutionary movement in its day of activity, as in 1798, 1848 and 1867, and yet allowed its priests to deliver speeches in eulogy of the active spirits of those movements a generation afterwards, so in the future the Church, which has its hand close upon the pulse of human society, when it realises that the cause of capitalism is a lost cause it will find excuse enough to allow freedom of speech and expression to those lowly priests whose socialist declarations it will then use to cover and hide the absolute anti-socialism of the Roman Propaganda. When that day comes the Papal Encyclical against socialism will be conveniently forgotten by the Papal historians, and and the socialist utterances, of the von Kettelers, the McGlynns, and McGradys will be heralded forth and the communistic utterances of the early fathers as proofs of Catholic sympathy with progressive ideas. Thus it has been in the past. Thus it will be..."

He certainly wasn’t anti-political action and an anti-parliamentarian declaring after the IWW 1908 deletion of the political clause “just try and stop the workers taking it” He expanded this:

Quote:
"I am inclined to ask all and sundry amongst our comrades if there is any necessity for this presumption of antagonism between the industrialist and the political advocate of socialism. I cannot see any. I believe that such supposed necessity only exists in the minds of the mere theorists or doctrinaires. The practical fighter in the work-a-day world makes no such distinction. He fights, and he votes; he votes and he fights. He may not always, he does not always, vote right; nor yet does he always fight when and as he should. But I do not see that his failure to vote right is to be construed into a reason for advising him not to vote at all; nor yet why a failure to strike properly should be used as a gibe at the strike weapon, and a reason for advising him to place his whole reliance upon votes."

He did indeed oppose the First World War but began to express certain pro-German sentiments during it. For instance, in the speech above in October 1914 he was reported as saying that "Germany was fighting for the commerce of the seas and for the means of building up a sane civilisation in Europe" and, a month later, wrote that "in this attack upon Germany it [the Irish working class] sees an attack upon the nation whose working class had advanced nearest to the capture of the citadels of capitalism" (Irish Worker, 21 November 1914).

The labour movement and working-class unity were the real victims of the 1916 Dublin Rising by subordinating their class interests to the nationalist interests of the capitalist. After one week of fighting, the 1916 Dublin Uprising was bloodily suppressed. Lacking any real basis of support, the insurgents did not have the slightest chance of victory. Connolly was wrong when he thought that it would ignite the class movement in Europe. The idea that any group of workers can be incited into action by heroic example and martydom is a false one. We have the 1921 March Action and the 1923 uprising in Germany for further proof of that.

Why he allied himself with the very nationalists who had opposed him during the Dublin Lock-out and with such a dangerous romantic as Patrick Pearse is all speculation. Was it the disillusionment of the failure of the 2nd International to stop the war that spurred him to make a blood sacrifice as some call the suicidal uprising (there is of course a contrary argument that if it had gone to plan it could very well have succeeded, but that’s another debate).

But we can see the futility fo the working class in Ireland.

There have been 29 general elections to the Dàil, Ireland’s parliament, since independence. Ireland’s Labour Party have won precisely none. When socialism goes up against nationalism in a country where all civic politics is about the nation, then Labour doesn’t stand a chance. Eamon de Valera’s specific strategy – was to smother the Labour movement in the embrace of Fianna Fáil. His nationalist party talked the language of social democracy with enough rhetoric to rob Labour of a distinctive voice, while never delivering the goods. Connolly used his charismatic authority as a party leader, and a trade union organiser, to drag his men behind him. He ignored criticism from the other leaders of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union because his sights were set on action, no matter how futile. A large section of the of the workers’ movement was destroyed and into the vacuum stepped in bourgeois opportunists ready to lavish praise Connolly, in order to divert the working class struggle.

Those who advocate alliances between the workers’ organisations and pro-capitalist political parties on the basis of Connolly’s participation in the 1916 rising should heed the consequences. Connolly himself ignored his own advice. On January 22, 1916 he made a statement:

Quote:
“The labour movement is like no other movement. Its strength lies in being like no other movement. It is never so strong as when it stands alone.”

Post-war Ireland saw the Limerick Soviet in the south and, in the north, the Belfast 40-Hour Strike where “Bolsheviks and Sinn Feiners” were leading astray many “good loyalist protestants” to the dismay of the Orange Lodge, where the composition of the strike committee was a majority of Protestant, but the chairman was a Catholic. Sectarianism was being challenged. Working class militancy had entered the Shankill Road and Sandy Row. The National Union of Railwaymen in a resolution at a conference in Belfast stated:

Quote:
“without complete unity amongst the working classes, (we should not allow either religious or political differences to prevent their emancipation) which can be achieved through a great international brotherhood the world over, no satisfactory progress could be made.”

Instead of a Connolly to seize the opportunity for working class unity and solidarity, we had De Valera declaring “Labour must wait”, the interests of the nation must come first (read “the interests of the capitalists”). It was to be national unity, not class unity. By pressing their interests the workers were said to be “endangering” the unity of the republican forces! On the land where the tenants were seizing the estates only to find themselves held back by Sinn Fein and the IRA, who even went to the lengths of carrying out evictions in order to break the back of the land-seizure movement.

I think Connolly made a wrong decision in 1916, but that does not question his sincerity, only his judgement. Who can say what contribution Connolly could have made if he had lived. But as Sean O’Casey concluded, the decision to commit the Citizens Army to a rising called by class enemies was a betrayal.

S. Artesian
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Oct 19 2015 15:41

I think AJJ's post captures the complexity of Connolly, warts and all, and does so quite nicely.

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Oct 19 2015 16:29
Artesian wrote:
I think AJJ's post captures the complexity of Connolly, warts and all, and does so quite nicely.

Agreed.

Flava seems unwilling to state plainly that Connolly was a nationalist (rather than just having "nationalist leanings") and unhappy with those who do. But I think the evidence is plenty that he was (as consistently shown by quotes provided from 1897 up till his 1916 death) – though as has been said already, that’s not all he was. But, as he indicates below, his version of socialism couldn’t be “dissevered” from his nationalism;

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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. (Connolly, one month before his execution.)

Recognising that the proper utilisation of the national resources requires control of political power, we propose to conquer that political power through a working class political party; and recognising that the full development of national power requires complete national freedom, we are frankly and unreservedly prepared for whatever struggle may be necessary to conquer for Ireland her place among the nations of the earth. (Connolly, 3 months before the Easter Rising.)

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 for in Belgium . . . 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 seal it with their lives if necessary. (Connolly at his court-martial.)

One could debate how useful that kind of socialism was – but if one can’t even accept that the nationalism was embedded in that socialism you won’t get very far.

As for anarchoanarchist’s complaints of Connolly being racist; in the historical context of his times and its socialist theorists he wasn’t alone in using racial categories in dubious ways - eg, Bakunin’s anti-semitism, Marx & Engels' racist remarks about Marx's ‘mixed race’ son-in-law Lafargue and Marx’s approving comments about Tremaux’s theories of more and less advanced races.

Like Marx & Bakunin, one could say that there were worthwhile elements to Connolly’s practice and theory while not pretending there weren’t other more contradictory and crap elements too. (Though I don’t rate Connolly’s writings nearly as interesting as Marx & Bakunin and his errors in practice arguably turned out to be more disastrous than either.)

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Oct 19 2015 19:27

AJ, I agree with most of what you say there. And Redmarriot, I don't deny that nationalism was one aspect to Connolly, what I objected to in the other thread was just calling him a nationalist without any qualification, and in not drawing a distinction between the nationalism of the oppressed, one that simply wants to assert a right to existence, and the nationalism of the oppressor, one who proclaims its own supremacy and wishes to dominate all other peoples.

Anarchoanarchist, I disagree. If someone was using that language nowadays, yes, that would be a strong signal that they were racist, but Connolly here is talking about a movement of opposition to Imperialism, one that had a multitude of traps, that genuine socialist republicans have continued to fall into over the proceeding century, but racism wasn't one of them.

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Oct 19 2015 20:38

There is only one "kind" of nationalism, which expresses itself in many ways, around concrete actual solutions; restructurings of class relations. The core of nationalism is some sense of (false) community based on national identity.

Anarchist, Communist, Leftist support for nationalism has been one trainwreck after another. There is no reason we cannot support concrete reforms, that embody the aims of "oppressed nationalities" while simultaneously subjecting nationalism to ruthless critique.

The primary thing that nationalism does is allow for the working class to block up with the ruling class in the name of self-preservation, protection, pride, all sorts of nonsense.

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Oct 19 2015 21:50
Flava wrote:
Redmarriot, I don't deny that nationalism was one aspect to Connolly, what I objected to in the other thread was just calling him a nationalist without any qualification, and in not drawing a distinction between the nationalism of the oppressed, one that simply wants to assert a right to existence, and the nationalism of the oppressor, one who proclaims its own supremacy and wishes to dominate all other peoples.

I accept the qualification that he wasn’t only a nationalist, but nationalist he was. But the distinction you draw still uses the category of national “peoples” – and within that category too there is a class divide; within the class relations of the nation. The concept of “the nationalism of the oppressed” obscures and relegates that class division beneath that of a supposed greater national interest always to the advantage of the native boss class. It also implies a necessary prior stage of national emancipation before the real class struggle can be resolved – while in fact submerging class struggle beneath the nationalist legacy indefinitely; Connolly seemed to believe in the former while being aware of the latter. O’Casey at the time was much clearer about that pitfall – while Connolly died for his confusion on it and became a martyr to a historic legacy that remains an obstacle to the working class.

But it’s true that Connolly’s use of racial categories was more related to a notion of a 'national identity' and wasn’t, unlike Marx & Bakunin’s, an explicit expression of racial prejudice against a particular individual or group.

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Oct 20 2015 10:27
Red Marriott wrote:
Flava wrote:
Redmarriot, I don't deny that nationalism was one aspect to Connolly, what I objected to in the other thread was just calling him a nationalist without any qualification, and in not drawing a distinction between the nationalism of the oppressed, one that simply wants to assert a right to existence, and the nationalism of the oppressor, one who proclaims its own supremacy and wishes to dominate all other peoples.

I accept the qualification that he wasn’t only a nationalist, but nationalist he was. But the distinction you draw still uses the category of national “peoples” – and within that category too there is a class divide; within the class relations of the nation. The concept of “the nationalism of the oppressed” obscures and relegates that class division beneath that of a supposed greater national interest always to the advantage of the native boss class. It also implies a necessary prior stage of national emancipation before the real class struggle can be resolved – while in fact submerging class struggle beneath the nationalist legacy indefinitely; Connolly seemed to believe in the former while being aware of the latter. O’Casey at the time was much clearer about that pitfall – while Connolly died for his confusion on it and became a martyr to a historic legacy that remains an obstacle to the working class.

But it’s true that Connolly’s use of racial categories was more related to a notion of a 'national identity' and wasn’t, unlike Marx & Bakunin’s, an explicit expression of racial prejudice against a particular individual or group.

On the national liberation before class emancipation thing, I think Connolly's views changed on that over time and that the disintigration of the second international influenced that. But I also think that his views were derived from the class composition of Ireland at the time and he believed that a blow to the British Empire could spur revolutions accross Europe. Ireland barely saw the industrial revolution, it was kept deliberately underdeveloped so you only really had a significant proletariat in the North East I.E. Belfast and environs, and a smaller but significant one around Dublin, Navan and Drogheda. The rest of the country was agricultural labourers and small peasants making up the lower classes, and big farmers and landlords making up the upper. Now we would no doubt have argued for the small peasants and rural labourers to revolt and take over and collectivise the land, that Connolly didn't though was consistant with the dominant strands in Marxism at the time (as was the two stages of revolution idea), also generally what the rural poor wanted was their own little plot of land.

Quote:
The concept of “the nationalism of the oppressed” obscures and relegates that class division beneath that of a supposed greater national interest always to the advantage of the native boss class

In fairness, you can't say that of Connolly. At every turn he emphasised the class divisions and stated clearly that replacing English rule with that of Irish capitalists and landlords would be futile. He also supposedly said to the ICA before the rising "When this is over, hold on to your guns, the volunteers might not want to go as far as we do" - though that's based on hearsay.

Pennoid wrote:
There is only one "kind" of nationalism, which expresses itself in many ways, around concrete actual solutions; restructurings of class relations. The core of nationalism is some sense of (false) community based on national identity.

Anarchist, Communist, Leftist support for nationalism has been one trainwreck after another. There is no reason we cannot support concrete reforms, that embody the aims of "oppressed nationalities" while simultaneously subjecting nationalism to ruthless critique.

The primary thing that nationalism does is allow for the working class to block up with the ruling class in the name of self-preservation, protection, pride, all sorts of nonsense.

Pennoid, I never said anything about supporting nationalism and the bit I highlighted in bold, I agree with. Though I disagree with saying there is only one kind of nationalism. You can't say there is only one kind of anything. Take cheese. You have Stilton, Cheddar, Camembert etc, all basically the same thing but substantially different. I think there is a real difficulty in doing what you say (the bit highlighted in bold) without having an accurate critique of nationalism. Like, there is a gulf between the Black Panthers and Fascism, between the SNP and the BNP and you can say that without supporting nationalism.

As an aside, one of the pitfalls for socialists of supporting Irish republicanism is that within the mainstream you often had progressives and reactionaries within the same organisations, sometimes even splitting politically but remaining united militarily.

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Oct 20 2015 11:19

What's a revolutionary nationalism? What determines if some group is oppressed?

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Oct 20 2015 11:33
Pennoid wrote:
What's a revolutionary nationalism? What determines if some group is oppressed?

I don't think I mentioned revolutionary nationalism :-/ But I guess nationalism whose aim is overthrowing an existing state/order?

What determines if a group is oppressed? As an anarchist do you really need to ask that question? Pretty much outlined the Irish example above anyway.

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Oct 20 2015 11:49
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"When this is over, hold on to your guns, the volunteers might not want to go as far as we do"

As i suggested in my earlier post, just imagine if the Citizens Army had not participated and was fully intact in post-war Ireland. How its reputation and popularity would be if it had not joined in, i'm not sure but the Dubin Uprising certainly was its death-blow from which i never recovered and probably the end of any independent working class organisation. Connolly’s example as a prominent left nationalist exposes the fatal fallacy which insists upon placing priority on independence first then afterwards will argue for socialism. History reveals when they do, it is socialism that is subsequently forgotten. The Citizen’s Army dissolved itself into the Dublin brigade of the IRA. Those who fought alongside him for nothing less than Irish freedom accepted something less than freedom with the partition in 1921. Connolly’s vision of a united movement of Catholic and Protestant workers, North and South did not become a reality.

Indeed in Erin’s Hope as early as 1897 Connolly had written, “No revolutionist can safely invite the cooperation of men or classes whose ideals are not theirs and whom, therefore, they may be compelled to fight at some future critical stage of the journey to freedom.”

Once again, Connolly disregarded his own counsel.

I agree with you that Connolly did on numerous occasions distance himself from the Irish nationalist capitalist class such as Murphy(who in the aftermath of the Easter rising called for Connolly's execution)etc. Griffith, founder of Sinn Fein and one of Ireland's leading "liberators" during the 1913 Lock-out demanded that the authorities make use of the military and "drive them back to work at the point of the bayonet."

But it cannot be avoided no matter how sympathetic we are that he made a decision to ally himself with those very same elements. Sinn Fein, in its policy statement of 1907 had made clear the identity of the class it represented though it euphemistically referred to the Irish capitalist class as “home manufacturers and producers”: “If an Irish manufacturer cannot produce an article as cheaply as an English or other foreign capitalist, only because his foreign competitor has larger resources at his disposal, then it is the first duty of the Irish nation to accord protection to that manufacturer.”

The Sinn Fein paper, 'Irish Freedom' wrote;
"We have seen with anger in our hearts and the flush of shame on our cheeks English alms dumped on the quays of Dublin; we have had to listen to the lying and hypocritical English press as it shouted the news of the starving and begging Irish to the ends of the earth; we have heard Englishmen bellowing on the streets of Dublin the lie that we are the sisters and brothers of the English.. and greatest shame of all, we have seen and heard Irishmen give their approval to all these insults.. God grant that such things may never happen in our land again."

The Citizen Army’s first handbill contained a list of reasons not to join the IRB Volunteers, (controlled by forces opposed to labour, officials having locked out union men ..,) and a list of reasons to join the Citizen Army (controlled by working class people, refuses membership to people opposed to labour..,).

Sean O’Casey reminds us that the Irish Volunteers were “streaked with employers who had openly tried to starve the women and children of the workers, followed meekly by scabs and blacklegs from the lower elements among the workers themselves, and many of them saw in this agitation a plumrose path to good jobs, now held in Ireland by the younger sons of the English well-to-do.”

The Proclamation which Connolly signed was a nationalist document with no recognition of the existence of conflicting classes, that was steeped in religious piety, beginning as it did, “Irishmen and Irishwomen: in the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.” and ending “We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God”

When he stood in a municipal election in Dublin in 1902, Connolly issued an election leaflet in Yiddish and again it emphasises his disdain for the Irish nationalist:

Quote:
“No, you cannot vote for the Home Ruler, the candidate of the bourgeoisie! The Home Rulers speak out against the English capitalists and the English landlords because they want to seize their places so that they themselves can oppress and exploit the people. No mater how nicely and well the Home Rulers talk or how much as friends of man they seek to appear or how much they shout about oppressed Ireland – they are capitalists. In their own homes they can show their true colours and cast off their revolutionary democratic disguise and torment and choke the poor as much as they can. And you, Jews, what assurance do you have that one fine day they will not turn on you?
You ought to vote for the Socialist candidate and only for the Socialist candidate. The Socialists are the only ones who stand always and everywhere against every national oppression.”

Despite the sacrifice, Irish socialism did not emerge any the stronger. Irish nationalism was hostile to the cause of labour. Sean O’Casey concluded that "Jim Connolly had stepped from the narrow byway of Irish Socialism onto the broad and crowded highway of Irish Nationalism". O’Casey wrote in his History of the Irish Citizens Army “Liberty Hall was no longer the Headquarters of the Irish Labour movement, but the centre of Irish national disaffection.” Like most socialist leaders, Connolly surrendered to patriotism in 1914 but in his case it was Irish patriotism.

As i said, Connolly's politics is marked by so many contradictory positions and as you say he often emphasised class positions. It is tragic that Connolly did not heed his early warnings:

Quote:
“Nationalism without Socialism – without a reorganisation of society on the basis of a broader and more developed form of that common property which underlay the social structure of Ancient Erin - is only national recreancy.
It would be tantamount to a public declaration that our oppressors had so far succeeded in inoculating us with their perverted conceptions of justice and morality that we had finally decided to accept those conceptions as our own, and no longer needed an alien army to force them upon us.
As a Socialist I am prepared to do all one man can do to achieve for our motherland her rightful heritage – independence; but if you ask me to abate one jot or tittle of the claims of social justice, in order to conciliate the privileged classes, then I must decline.
Such action would be neither honourable nor feasible. Let us never forget that he never reaches Heaven who marches thither in the company of the Devil. Let us openly proclaim our faith: the logic of events is with us."

Connolly had good reason to despise the nationalists and in numerous articles he explained it very clearly. He laid out the Marxist internationalist case for workers emancipation, exposing the short-comings of the Irish nationalist movement as a path for working class liberation. He mocks their romantic calls of "freedom" and instead calls for unity, not as a nation, but as a class. He calls not for the independence for the Irish capitalist class, but for the working class. Workers have no country, but one struggle. Connolly's words ring as true today as it did then.

He wrote in The Workers' Republic, 1899:

Quote:
“Let us free Ireland! Never mind such base, carnal thoughts as concern work and wages, healthy homes, or lives unclouded by poverty.

Let us free Ireland! The rackrenting landlord; is he not also an Irishman, and wherefore should we hate him? Nay, let us not speak harshly of our brother – yea, even when he raises our rent.

Let us free Ireland! The profit-grinding capitalist, who robs us of three-fourths of the fruits of our labour, who sucks the very marrow of our bones when we are young, and then throws us out in the street, like a worn-out tool when we are grown prematurely old in his service, is he not an Irishman, and mayhap a patriot, and wherefore should we think harshly of him?

Let us free Ireland! “The land that bred and bore us.” And the landlord who makes us pay for permission to live upon it. Whoop it up for liberty!

“Let us free Ireland,” says the patriot who won’t touch Socialism. Let us all join together and cr-r-rush the br-r-rutal Saxon. Let us all join together, says he, all classes and creeds. And, says the town worker, after we have crushed the Saxon and freed Ireland, what will we do? Oh, then you can go back to your slums, same as before. Whoop it up for liberty!

And, says the agricultural workers, after we have freed Ireland, what then? Oh, then you can go scraping around for the landlord’s rent or the money-lenders’ interest same as before. Whoop it up for liberty!

After Ireland is free, says the patriot who won’t touch socialism, we will protect all classes, and if you won’t pay your rent you will be evicted same as now. But the evicting party, under command of the sheriff, will wear green uniforms and the Harp without the Crown, and the warrant turning you out on the roadside will be stamped with the arms of the Irish Republic. Now, isn’t that worth fighting for?

And when you cannot find employment, and, giving up the struggle of life in despair, enter the poorhouse, the band of the nearest regiment of the Irish army will escort you to the poorhouse door to the tune of St. Patrick's Day. Oh! It will be nice to live in those days!

“With the Green Flag floating o’er us” and an ever-increasing army of unemployed workers walking about under the Green Flag, wishing they had something to eat. Same as now! Whoop it up for liberty!

Now, my friend, I also am Irish, but I’m a bit more logical. The capitalist, I say, is a parasite on industry; as useless in the present stage of our industrial development as any other parasite in the animal or vegetable world is to the life of the animal or vegetable upon which it feeds.

The working class is the victim of this parasite – this human leech, and it is the duty and interest of the working class to use every means in its power to oust this parasite class from the position which enables it to thus prey upon the vitals of labour.

Therefore, I say, let us organise as a class to meet our masters and destroy their mastership; organise to drive them from their hold upon public life through their political power; organise to wrench from their robber clutch the land and workshops on and in which they enslave us; organise to cleanse our social life from the stain of social cannibalism, from the preying of man upon his fellow man.

Organise for a full, free and happy life FOR ALL OR FOR NONE.”

Connolly was indeed a paradox. The critic on this thread accuses his defence of Gaelic culture as an example of racism but Connolly went beyond the parochial and embraced the cosmopolitan culture. An example of his internationalism is Connolly’s attachment for the international language of Esperanto which can be acceptable to all because it gives no nation a special advantage. In Workers' Republic of December 2nd 1899, Connolly wrote:

Quote:
"I believe the establishment of a universal language to facilitate communication between the peoples is highly to be desired. But I incline also to the belief that this desirable result would be attained sooner as the result of a free agreement which would accept one language to be taught in all primary schools, in addition to the national language, than by the attempt to crush out the existing national vehicles of expression. The complete success of the attempts at Russification or Germanisation, or kindred efforts to destroy the language of a people would, in my opinion, only create greater barriers to the acceptance of a universal language. Each conquering race, lusting after universal domination, would be bitterly intolerant of the language of every rival, and therefore more disinclined to accept a common medium than would a number of small races, with whom the desire to facilitate commercial and literary intercourse with the world, would take the place of lust of domination."

In The Harp (April 1908) he wrote:

Quote:
"I do believe in the necessity, and indeed in the inevitability of an universal language; but I do not believe it will be brought about, or even hastened, by smaller races or nations consenting to the extinction of their language. Such a course of action, or rather of slavish inaction, would not hasten the day of a universal language, but would rather lead to the intensification of the struggle for mastery between the languages of the greater powers.
On the other hand, a large number of small communities, speaking different tongues, are more likely to agree upon a common language as a common means of communication than a small number of great empires, each jealous of its own power and seeking its own supremacy."

As i also stated previously Connolly's views evolved. Connolly increasingly abandoned socialism for nationalism which can be seen in his article "The Slackers", published in the Workers’ Republic on 11 March 1916, which attacks Scots and English workers who had come to Ireland to escape conscription. Those "curs" and "Brit Huns" were attacked for cowardice and for stealing jobs from Irishmen. A reply from Glasgow reader suggested that the workers Connolly attacked had moved to Ireland, where many of their parents came from, to avoid being called up and were behaving sensibly and properly. Connolly’s response made it clear that the "curs" were guilty whether they fought in the army or worked in Scotland, England or Ireland. His attitude may well come from those who would deny asylum seekers refuge.

Again i mentioned his support for German imperialism as expressed in an article, "Forces of Civilisation" in Workers’ Republic where he describes “The German Empire is a homogeneous Empire of self-governing peoples; the British Empire is a heterogeneous collection in which a very small number of self-governing communities connive at the subjugation, by force, of a vast number of despotically ruled subject populations. We do not wish to be ruled by either empire, but we certainly believe that the first named contains in germ more of the possibilities of freedom and civilisation than the latter”. This apology referring to a nation that committed genocide in South West Africa against the indigenous Hetero people.
How different when he wrote
“And don’t make the mistake of lauding the Kaiser, either, as our so-called nationalist journals do. He has always proven himself to be a most determined enemy of the working class, and longs for the day when he may drown in blood their hopes for freedom..He is your enemy, as the English governing class is your enemy, as the Irish propertied class is your enemy, as all the classes who live upon your labour in all the nations of the world are your enemy.”

And there is much to question Connolly as a military commander. Connolly, although credited as a socialist scholar, failed to appreciate Engels advice that the time for street-fighting, barricades, conspiracies and insurrections had passed. It was now time to recognise as the most immediate task of the workers’ party was the slow propaganda work and parliamentary activity. Connolly made the glaring error of believing that the British state was incapable of using heavy artillery and so destroying its own property. In fact, the British readily bombarded buildings.

We can speculate on Connolly role if he had survived and perhaps offer the example of Countess Markiewicz, who became Minister of Labour in the first republican government and died a firm supporter of De Valera. He certainly would have been an asset to Ireland’s new rulers in their task of getting the labour movement to subordinate its own interests to the task of national construction, as in the case of the numerous ANC militants in South Africa. Another signal of co-option was the number of left republican protestants and widows of republicans who converted to catholicism in after 1916. These included Constance Markievicz, Lillie Connolly, the widow of James Connolly. Catholicism had become the religion of Irish nationalism. Perhaps Connolly too would have returned to the bosom of Mother Church as there may be good grounds to believe he did on his death-bed. Such speculation is however pointless though because Connolly’s stature is due to his death and martyrdom. The Citizen’s Army fades from history just when a vital need for an independent armed force on behalf of the workers was soon to be only too apparent.

After independence working people had high hopes but over the following decade they were harshly suppressed by the new Irish government. Ireland’s new political elite would effectively turn the clock back and enforce the status quo that had existed in Ireland years if not decades before the war of Independence. Ireland’s first post independence government successfully suppressed political opposition and the workers’ movement and went on to enforce their moral and ethical values on wider society, ably supported by the conservative invidious influence of the Catholic Church and the consequences are surfacing even today with the tales of the Magadalene Laundries and illegitimate children of the poor left to die and discarded in cess-pits.

In December 1922 four prominent republicans, Liam Mellows (IRA quarter master), Joe McKelvey (former IRA Chief of Staff) , Rory O’Connor (IRA director of Engineering) and Dick Barrett were executed. Thomas Johnson the labour leader vented his fury over the executions and said “I am almost forced to say you have killed the new State at its birth” but he missed the point. They had not killed the state, quite the opposite. It was the bloody after-birth of a State being born. The Free State were well aware of what they were doing. The repression strengthened and secured the power of the native Irish capitalist class who would successfully lay down the groundwork for a deeply authoritarian state that they would use to break all opposition regardless of its nature. Although the president of the administration was William Cosgrave, the Cumann na nGaedheal government was increasingly under the influence of Kevin O’Higgins who famously quipped that Cumann na nGaedheal were the “most conservative-minded revolutionaries that ever put through a successful revolution”.

It was a scenario foreseen by Connolly:

Quote:
“Having learned from history that all bourgeois movements end in compromise, that the bourgeois revolutionists of today become the conservatives of tomorrow, the Irish Socialists refuse to deny or to lose their identity with those who only half understand the problem of liberty. They seek only the alliance and the friendship of those hearts who, loving liberty for its own sake, are not afraid to follow its banner when it is uplifted by the hands of the working class who have most need of it. Their friends are those who would not hesitate to follow that standard of liberty, to consecrate their lives in its service even should it lead to the terrible arbitration of the sword.”

Connolly tried to stand with a foot in both the socialist and nationalist camps simultaneously. Like the left nationalists of today he hoped that the bulk of nationalist supporters would learn in the course of the independence struggle to throw in their lot with the socialist movement. Unfortunately, that was not to be, for the siren call of the national patriot proved stronger than the appeal to class solidarity.

Connolly, rather than maintain the independence of the labour movement and stay true the socialist goal, chose to go in alliance with the likes of Patrick Pearse who could write in The Coming Revolution:
“We might make mistakes in the beginning and shoot the wrong people but bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing.”

Connolly joined forces with our class enemies such as Pearce who would welcome the outbreak of world war by saying:
“The last 15 months have been the most glorious in the history of Europe. Heroism has come back to the earth. It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields. Such august honour was never offered to God as this.”

Or wallow in the death-wish by writing:
"I know that Ireland will not be happy again until she recollects that laughing gesture of a young man that is going into battle or climbing to a gibbet.”

Which was a policy that very much resembled the practices of the new independent government, representatives of Ireland's ruling class and, as such, the very people who had led Connolly to conclude the necessity of establishing the workers militia, the Irish Citizen Army. The same old nationalist leadership which had no problem declaring that their idea of freedom did not include freedom from the employers whose interests they serve.

My apologies for the length of this post...I've written quite a lot on my blogs about Connolly so it is easy to cut and paste from them.

I heartily recommend Connolly as the IWW inspired union activist...i recommend his Socialism Made Easy as an introductory pamphlet but workers must turn a deaf ear to the empty phrases of nationalism, no matter what quarter they come from

Flava O Flav's picture
Flava O Flav
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Oct 20 2015 12:13

Seeing as how you mention what happened after 'independence' - this two part article from the Irish Anarchist Review a few years back is pretty good grim reading and gives a good account of the first ten years of the southern Irish state.

http://www.wsm.ie/c/torture-murder-exclusion-ireland-independence

http://www.wsm.ie/c/authoritarianism-women-early-irish-state-catholic-se...

ajjohnstone
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Oct 20 2015 12:53

Thanks for those links. And just to press how anti-worker the Free State was some more info.

The Free State government having won its civil war then uses their military to crush the workers movements. Labour historian Emmet O' Connor describes how thousands of paramilitary police (Special Infantry Corps) were deployed so that by the Spring of 1923 "military intervention was becoming a routine response to factory seizures or the disruption of essential services". During the Waterford farm strike of 1923 "600 SIC were billeted in a chain of posts throughout the affected area."

In September 1922, 10,000 postal workers went on strike provoked by a government which rejected the findings of its own commission of enquiry into the cost of living for postal employees and imposed a wage cut. The reaction of the government was all too predictable and the army were sent in to break the strike, soldiers threatening strikers and armoured cars driven into picket lines. "Numerous arrests and re-arrests of pickets were made until the right to peacefully picket was asserted in the courts. Even then, troops continued to intimidate strikers with armoured vehicles and rifle fire. On 17 September a lady telephonist was shot in the knees. Raids took place on union offices and arrests of officials continued." O’Connor writes. This was to demonstrate to the workers that 'law and order' had been restored.

The rural poor were also victims of Cumann na nGaedhael in power. Hoping to cultivate a support base with larger farmers in Ireland, they supported these farmers in their ongoing attempts to drive down the wages of landless agricultural labourers. These labourers formed around 23% of the rural workforce. As a class they had been the big losers during the land war of the 1880′s as they could not benefit from reforms that allowed farmers buy land given they had none. Their attempts to gain a stake in Irish rural society through organising themselves in the ITGWU (The Irish Transport and General Workers Union) in the early 20th century was fiercely resisted by farmers. In 1923 farmers, emboldened by the knowledge that the Free State would support them, locked out thousands of unionised labourers in attempts to drive down wages. In Athy, Co. Kildare when farmers locked out 350 labourers the National Army arrested the ITGWU branch secretary in the area. When a farmer was attacked and a threshing machine damaged 8 trade unionists were arrested and held for 3 months without trial or charge.

Over 400 landlords were dispossessed by agricultural labourers (often ITGWU members). This went on until the IRA came to the aid of the gentry by having the republican land courts order an end to "illegal seizures". This was not an isolated incident. The IRA was increasingly moving against workers' struggles. Among the better known examples are the smashing of a farm workers' strike at Bulgaden and the eviction of a 'Soviet' occupation from the mills at Quarterstown. Though they didn't always get their own way, one case was at Kilmacthomas when the IRA tried to keep the roads open while strikers were stopping the movement of scab labour and goods.

Later in the year when 1500 labourers were locked out in Waterford the response was similar. The state sent in 600 Soldiers and the entire of East Waterford was put under a curfew between 11p.m. and 5:30 am. Meanwhile nothing was done to stop vigilantes organised by farmers called “White Guards” attacking union organisers across the county. The land-owners, backed by the state, emerged victorious and crushed the union.

This, accompanied by high unemployment, broke the power of organised rural labour. The ITGWU’s membership halved in the following three years. This was reflected by the fact that within 5 years days lost to strike action were reduced by 95%. In the absence of unions, the government clearly had no interest in their welfare and the labourers had no one to defend their corner. This saw their living standards plummet. There was a 10% fall in agricultural labourers’ wages between 1922 and 1926 and a further 10% in the following 5 years. These policies saw a whole section of the rural population – the labourers - disappear through emigration, little wonder given their income had fallen by 20% between 1923 and 31.

The desperate living standards of the urban poor was one of the greatest single social issue facing “The Free State” in 1923. The tenement population in Dublin lived in crushing poverty. However instead of helping the poorest of the poor the government focused on building houses for the well-off, which saw the expansion of the suburbs on the fringes of Dublin. Little was done to alleviate the conditions among the urban poor in Dublin. Housing construction was largely privatised and thus little was done to alleviate the desperate squalor in which people lived as they could never afford housing. Dublin Corporation only built an average of 483 houses a year between 1923 and 1933. This led to the deterioration of housing conditions. In 1926, when a census was conducted, over a third of the population of Dublin lived in housing conditions with an average of 4 people per room. This disregard for overcrowding was worsened by their tax approach. Appealing to the rich in society the Free State, short of money, reduced income tax from what was 27% to 15% and instead turned to indirect taxation, which had a greater impact on the poor. The outcome of theses policies was revealed in 1926 when the statistic of an infant mortality rate of 12% among children younger than one in urban areas was revealed. The indifferent attitude of Free State politicians would allow this to continue unaddressed with all its devastating consequences.

But to delve deeper into the anti-worker Irish nationalism .

Daniel ‘the Liberator’ O'Connell revered as one of the founders of Irish nationalism was a consistent enemy of the working class. He voted against a bill to limit the hours children under the age of 9 could be employed in factories and limiting those under the age of 13 to a 48 hour week. He stated that it infringed the rights of industry and condemned the

Quote:
"...ridiculous humanity, which would end by converting their manufacturers into beggars" and declared "There was no tyranny equal to that which was exercised by the trade unionists in Dublin over their fellow labourers. " He supported the rights of property and prevented the spread of Chartism in Ireland, "I shall ever rejoice that I kept Ireland free from this pollution." During the Famine years his son pronounced "I thank God I live among a people who would die of hunger rather than defraud their landlords of rent."

Parnell believed that the growth of trade unions would "Frighten the capitalist liberals and lead them to believe that a parliament in Dublin might be used for furthering some kind of socialism. You ought to know that neither the Irish priests or the farmers would support such principles."

The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a catholic version of the Orange Order, shared its opposition to socialism. It was involved in anti-trade union activity in Dublin and Cork where it drove Connolly out of Cobh/Queenstown. It published the pamphlet 'Socialism: A warning to the workers'.

Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Fein wrote of the strikes of 1911 that "Against the Red Flag of Communism...we raise the flag of an Irish nation. Under that flag will be protection, safety and freedom for all." Which, of course, they meant the businessmen and merchants.

Marx supported and advocated independence for Ireland, a fact which is used to try to justify supporting the demand for the establishment of a united Irish Republic and other nationalisms. Two points. First, what socialists should do now does not depend on what Marx may or may not have done in the 1860’s. And second, the circumstances which led Marx to support Irish independence no longer exist. Marx did support Irish independence but he did so primarily because he thought it would hasten the completion of the democratisation of the British State.

At this time the bourgeois democratic victory over feudalism was far from complete even in Britain, then the most industrially developed country in the world, and on the continent of Europe what progress had been made was continually threatened by three great feudal powers, Russia, Austria and Prussia. In these circumstances Marx considered it necessary to support not only direct moves to extend political democracy but also moves which he felt would weaken the feudal powers of Europe. For instance, he supported Polish independence as a means of weakening Tsarist Russia. His support for Irish independence was for the same sort of reason: it would, he thought, weaken the position of the English landed aristocracy.
As he put it in a letter dated 9 April,1870:

Quote:
"Ireland is the bulwark of the English landed aristocracy. The exploitation of that country is not only one of the main sources of the aristocracy’s material welfare; it is its greatest moral strength. It, in fact, represents the domination of England over Ireland. Ireland is therefore the great means by which the English aristocracy maintains its domination in England itself. If, on the other hand, the English army and police were to withdraw from Ireland tomorrow, you would at once have an agrarian revolution there. But the overthrow of the English aristocracy in Ireland involves as a necessary consequence its overthrow in England. And this would fulfil the preliminary condition for the proletarian revolution in England"

Marx may well have been right about the effect of Irish independence in 1870. Since the English landlords only retained their power to exploit the Irish peasants by force of British arms, a British withdrawal from Ireland could well have led to their expropriation. But this was never put to the test and the Irish land question was solved in quite a different way even before Ireland got independence. The series of Land Purchase Acts introduced between 1885 and 1903 enabled the government to buy out the Anglo-Irish landowners and then lend the peasants the money to buy their farms. By 1921 Ireland was largely a country of peasant proprietors. In the meantime the political power of the English landed aristocracy had finally been broken by a series of measures culminating in the 1911 reform of the House of Lords.

What this meant was that by the time Ireland was about to get independence after the first world war, the changes Marx had expected it to bring—land reform in Ireland and a weakening of aristocratic power in England—had already been brought about by other means.

Marx had a good sense of history and, though he himself never developed the theme, realised that the struggle of the Irish Nationalists for Home Rule was bound to help the evolution in Britain of political democracy because both struggles were directed against: the same class enemy: the English landed aristocracy.

His particular case for supporting Irish independence was thus no longer relevant.

Marx’s strategy on Ireland was concerned with furthering the establishment of political democracy in England. It was not an anticipation of the Leninist theory of imperialism according to which independence for colonies will help precipitate a socialist revolution in the imperialist countries, though it is sometimes misunderstood to be this. Marx clearly writes here of independence for Ireland helping to overthrow the remnants of feudalism not capitalism itself in England. Marx clearly wrote of independence for Ireland helping to overthrow the remnants of feudalism not capitalism itself in England.

Terry
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Nov 11 2015 11:37

Connolly's support for cultural nationalism would hardly make him a racist - the cultural nationalist movement was in fact multi-ethnic, neither was it a reaction by oppressed Irish Catholic peasants in the wake of the Great Famine - in large part it was part of the same romantic 'discovery of the people' going on across Europe - the victims of the Famine - those who didn't die - were busy speaking English in the anglophone countries they emigrated to. Many figures of the cultural revival such as Hyde, Gregory, Yeats, Synge and the like were quite the opposite of oppressed Irish Catholic peasants (indeed Lady Gregory's husband, in his role as Member of Parliament for Dublin, was responsible for one of the most notorious acts of the British government during the Great Famine - the denial of food relief to anyone who held more than a quarter of an acre of land i.e. more than very little). In any case the language shift(s) predates the Great Famine - though the switch was unquestionably hastened by it.

The romantic myth of the 'nationalism of the oppressed' is actually quite West-centric, eliding as it does both class conflict within the colonised society and the extent to which racist violence can be directed against groups which are perceived as, or actually were, hitherto somewhat dominant.

It has been a long time since I have read Connolly's work and studies of him, but as I recall, while one could say his attitude to nationalism was contradictory, it is important to bear in mind Connolly was always a bitter critic of the then mainstream nationalist 'Home Rule' movement (and its precursors - in one of his pamphlets there is a scathing chapter on early nineteenth century proto-nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell) and Connolly was always friendly enough with the then marginal radical republican separatists - working with them on the 1798 commemorations in 1898, in protests against the Boer War and against royal visits.

So there is a track record leading to 1916 and 1916 in fact might be considered something of a coup against the majority conservative wing of Irish nationalism. He just seems to have thought the republicans would, by logic of their own positions, have to become socialists (and many of them were not in fact hostile to the workers' movement - two of his fellow leaders in 1916 were white collar trade unionists). Really his position looks like an orientation towards a radical activist scene more than anything else.

Connolly's analysis of Irish republicanism has largely been ignored since his death but basically he had three arguments for socialist support for Irish republicanism:

(1) The Anglo-Irish conflict was really about a conflict between primitive communism on the one hand and feudalism and later capitalism on the other - this based on a mis-reading of C16th/C17th conditions which were, in any case, hardly relevant centuries later.

(2) The Irish bourgeoisie were irredeemably comprador - their economic interests tied closely to the Empire - the state was always a simple reflector of capitalist interests and hence an independent Irish capitalist state was impossible - and so separatism would have to become socialist and orientated to the workers' movement. Obviously no one argues this one anymore.

(3) Germany is closer to socialism than the United Kingdom. Irish republicanism can help contribute to a Germany victory in W.W.1, which will help bring us closer to socialism. Basically sort of like labour (British) unionism only with Germany in the place of Britain. Again this argument is clearly of its time and place and of no relevance today.

Connolly's marriage of republicanism and socialism was relevant in the decades after his death not because of the substance of his arguments on the topic but because as a socialist and an official member of the pantheon of Ireland's martyred dead his memory helped to legitimate socialism a little in certain circles in what was then a country dominated by conservative nationalism. His actual perspectives both on nationalism and on syndicalism seem to me to have been forgotten.

ajjohnstone
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Nov 12 2015 09:13

Your observation that some of his positions are no longer relevant in today's world i think is an accurate reading. But i would add, they were also mistaken in its own time...such as Connolly's contention that Germany was in someway a superior nation.

I would however if i was nit-picking contest your argument that the Irish nationalist movement were not anti-worker. Their action prior to 1916 and afterwards very much suggests otherwise. It seems that domestic capitalists such as Murphy could be nationalist even if for only opportunistic reasons. And i believe the Sinn Fein position was simply a protectionist one for the small Irish businessmen and farmer (i referred in one post to their defence of the farmers when the agricultural labourers took up protests against their employers.)

If Connolly's death helped legitimise socialism, i would have to say, that it was indeed within a certain circle...a very very small one which had very little effect on the dominant conservative nationalism that many would say turned Ireland into a de facto theocracy.

As i earlier maintained in my previous contributions to this thread, Connolly's actions were very much counter-productive to the development of socialism in Ireland and the development of an independent workers movement in Ireland. However we can only speculate on how different things would have been if the ICA had not sacrificed themselves for nationalism.

It was Connolly's syndicalism and IWWism that drew me to him and there lies his strength, IMHO