James Connolly

1916 - Connolly, blood sacrifice and defeating British imperialism

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At 11.30 in the morning of April 24 1916 Bugler William Oman, a member of a syndicalist workers militia the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), sounded the 'fall-in' outside his union headquarters. This was the start of an insurrection in Dublin which was to see around 1,500 armed men and women seize key buildings throughout the city, and to hold these positions against thousands of British Army soldiers for almost a week.  In the course of putting down the insurrection, 1351 people were killed or severely wounded and 179 buildings in the city centre were destroyed.(1)

Image: Liberty hall after the rising

An anarchist look at the ideas of James Connolly - the single most important figure in the history of the Irish left

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James Connolly is probably the single most important figure in the history of the Irish left. He was an organiser in the IWW in the USA but in Ireland is best known for his role in building the syndicalist phase of Irish union movement and for involving the armed defence body of that union, the Irish Citizens' Army in the 1916 nationalist insurrection. This left a legacy claimed at one time or another not only by all the Irish left parties but also by the nationalists of Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein. In this article I will attempt to look at the long neglected anarchistic aspects of Connolly's thought and ask the question was Connolly a libertarian?

James Connolly - A life and a legacy

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Revolutionary martyrs, being unable to speak for themselves, are liable to be claimed by all sorts of organisations with whom in real life they would have had little in common. When they are of national or international importance, like the Irish syndicalist James Connolly, this also mean that biographies often tend to be very partisan affairs, aimed at recruiting the dead to one cause or another. The story of their life becomes reduced to a morality tale whose conclusion is whatever positions the author holds dear today.

James Connolly on Direct Action

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At the Dublin May Day rally, the guest speaker from the Belfast & District Council of Trade Unions quoted from an article, Direct Action in Belfast, written by Connolly and published in the Irish Worker, September 16th, 1911.

“We have just had, and taken, the opportunity in Belfast to put into practice a little of what is known on the Continent of Europe as ‘Direct Action’.

“Direct Action consists in ignoring all the legal and parliamentary ways of obtaining redress for the grievances of Labour, and proceeding to rectify these grievances by direct action upon the employer’s most susceptible part – his purse. This is very effective at times, and saves much needless worry, and much needless waste of union funds.

“Direct Action is not liked by lawyers, politicians, or employers. It keeps the two former out of a job, and often leaves the latter out of pocket. But it is useful to Labour, and if not relied upon too exclusively, or used too recklessly, it may yet be made a potent weapon in the armoury of the working class.”

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