The Life and Times of James Connolly
C Desmond Greaves
Earlier this year, while designing an exhibition for the TUC on relations between the British and US labour movements, I came across a 1908 photograph of James Connolly speaking at a May Day rally alongside local leaders of the revolutionary syndicalists of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Jewish Bund and other trade unionists and socialists.
Reproduced on the back cover it shows Connolly in a typical pose, authoritative and forthright in communicating advanced ideas to workers.
Wherever Connolly found himself during his often troubled search for work he emerged as a local leader. In Scotland, in Ireland and in the US his particular combination of socialist principles, working-class unity and patriotism was inevitably fused into a consistent anti-imperialism.
A human picture arises of a man who reconciled the exacting demands of family life with his political duty and over the decades of his tumultuous life was able to combine a clear class analysis with a sharp polemical style always coupled with a firm grasp of the main practical tasks at every stage of the struggle.
Less than a decade after he spoke before workers in the US the wounded James Connolly, a casualty of the fighting in the Irish Rising and a trophy, as military and political leader of the Irish Citizen Arm, the prototypical armed workers’ militia, of the British imperial state was executed by firing squad by British soldiers pressed into the service of imperialism.
Manifesto Press in co-operation with the Connolly Association and Connolly Books in Dublin have republished The Life and Times of James Connolly.
Out of print for some time this book, written by the late C Desmond Greaves, the longstanding editor of the Connolly Association paper The Irish Democrat, is regarded as the principal authoritative source on the life of Ireland’s working-class national hero.
An authoritative preface by Greaves’s literary executor Anthony Coughlan points us in the direction of new sources of information including a collection of Connolly’s letters made by his former colleague William O’Brien.
Anthony Couglan provides for an international audience and most especially a British readership, from an Irish perspective, an object lesson in how Connolly’s distinctive politics have acquired a new relevance with the character of Ireland’s status as an independent state highlighted by challenges thrown up by Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
He argues that the contemporary relevance of Connolly’s political life in Ireland and its European neighbours stems precisely from the fact that the European Union and the crisis of its super-national currency, the euro, have made the national question, the right of nations to self-determination and independence, the central issue of European politics of our time.
From this account of Connolly’s life emerges a picture of a man who understood how the working-class movement has an objective interest in struggling for the highest form of democracy and in winning the widest sections of the people to this aim coupled with the aim of national independence.
Connolly, who knew first hand the nature of British imperialism, understood that the British nation itself could never be free whilst it enslaved others.
The Life and Times of James Connolly is available priced £11.50 from www.manifestopress.org.uk
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.