The Misuse Of James Connolly

It is glaringly irrational for purely nationalist parties in Ireland, notably Sinn Fein, to continue to pretend  to Connolly’s ideological legacy but not surprising given that entity’s flare for revisionism and political opportunism.  It goes without saying that if Connolly were alive in these early years of the 21st Century, he would certainly not be a member of Sinn Fein!

Before anyone makes the habitual statement that no person alive today can really second guess the possible contemporary actions or attitudes of dead revolutionaries, well in James Connolly’s case we can. It is well documented that Connolly during his political life in Ireland was never a member of Sinn Fein, a party that was founded in 1905 and of which he was very much aware of.  Connolly, the Marxist and revolutionary trade unionist would have been diametrically opposed to a party that largely backed William Martin Murphy and the employers during the Dublin Lock-out of 1913.  In actions that would be familiar today, the then Sinn Fein leader, Arthur Griffiths, refused to support the workers movement, describing it as ‘”sectional‘”.  When English trades unionists organised relief ships to help the striking workers, Griffith’s little Irelander hackles were raised and condemned the solidarity action as “an insult” to Ireland.

Sinn Fein And Socialism

James Connolly’s Sinn Fein And Socialism, published in April 1908 in The Harp, which critiques the shortcomings of that party’s one dimensional nationalism, was actually used in true revisionist form by the contemporary party during their hijacking of the centenary of Connolly’s residence in Belfast by quoting out of context the first few lines of the article which welcomes really only the the meaning of the English translation of the term Sinn Fein,

“That is a good name for the new Irish movement of which we hear so much nowadays. Sinn Féin, or in English, Ourselves”.

 Of course, the unlikely Connolly centenary celebrants of anti-Marxist Sinn Fein studiously ignored the rest of Connolly’s article and it’s mesage which is roundly critical of their ideology and pours scorn on their non-socialism and the absurdities of their early Habsburgian/monarchist leanings:

“As we all know the methods adopted by Hungary to reconquer its Parliament from Austria are the trite illustrations of the Sinn Féin orators. In fact during the early stages of the movement in Ireland before the felicitous name of Sinn Féin was coined the ideas as promulgated got the name of ‘the Hungary system’.

I remember one critic declaring that “the Hungary system was only fit for hungry men!”

It could be further added that any perceived ‘praise’ for Sinn Fein, was not for the party but used by Connolly to make the point that the working-class must rely on ‘ourselves’, not the national bourgeoisie (of which Sinn Fein was then a small but component part) who must be swept away so that,

“the era of the strutters and poseurs will end”

Connolly, the Marxist, in complete contrast to the limitations of bourgeois nationalism, ends his article by re-affirming that only the working-class can fight and win the fight for both national liberation and real economic freedom ie Socialism,

“we will realize at last what was meant by Marx when he spoke of the revolt of those who

Have Nothing to Lose but their Chains.”

No Reds In Their Beds!

Therefore, it is very much in the eye of the beholder to decide whether the, at best, nationalist Centrist party called Sinn Fein’s highly tenuous claims to the legacy of the Marxist, James Connolly, are the result of revisionism, political opportunism or a confused ideological compass (or perhaps a combination of the latter two?)

Certainly, it would be the height of irrationalism for a party such as Sinn Fein to attempt to claim the legacy of the Marxist Connolly, when there are such concrete assertations from the present party leader stating:

“There is no Marxist influence within Sinn Fein, it simply isn’t a Marxist organisation.  I know of no-one in Sinn Fein who is a Marxist or who would be influenced by Marxism.”

We saw echoes of this edict recently when members of that party’s youth section condemned Republican Socialist G8 protestors for having the temerity to carry red flags, the symbols of international socialism.  (The youthful McCathyites then camped out nearly 100 miles from the G8, reportedly near the Giant’s Foot [no pun intended] while of course their leadership salivated at the prospect of being permitted to join the chorus line of clapping seals welcoming the most insidious cabal of global war criminals and imperialists to Ireland!  However, the above statement from Adams is a completely rational assertation from a party whose well documented aim is for a unitary Capitalist Ireland that sees no contradiction in gladhanding the world’s most vicious imperialists, such as Obama et al.

History Vindicates Irish Republican Socialism

Ironically for a party who at one stage, using crude reductionism, viewed the modern partitioned 26 counties as a neo-colony of (British) imperialism (a view that was jettisoned during the heyday of the Celtic Tiger), it is now entirely comfortable with a future where Ireland would be a minor cheerleader of Western imperialism as it massacres it’s way around the world in search of oil, commodities and profit.

In conclusion, Connolly’s Republican Socialism, his militant trade unionism, his adherence to Marxism, his membership of the Irish Socialist Republican Party and his rejection of one-dimensional nationalism, are irrefutable and uncomfortable truths for those who have erroneously attempted to hijack his legacy.  The contradictions of these attempts are glaringly obvious for those whose minds have not been befuddled by neo-liberalism’ double-speak nonsense and blatant revisionism. By the same token the ‘gas and water socialists’ of the Brit-centric Left and two-nations ‘socialists’ who choose to ignore the British imperialist elephant in the living room who periodically pay homage to Connolly, conveniently chose to ignore his central tenet that national liberation and true socialism are symbiotically linked.

Today’s heirs of Connolly’s legacy are those who unreservedly adhere to his most oft quoted ‘thesis’ that:

“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 would be in vain. England would 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.”

Saoirse go deo!

References:

1.http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1908/04/sinnfein.htm

2.http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/ws88_89/ws29_1913.html

3.http://www.irishleftreview.org/2009/12/17/long-march-political-strategy-sinn-fin-19812007/

Alex McGuigan,
Belfast
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3 Responses to “The Misuse Of James Connolly”

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