James Connolly opposes Irish independence

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The following article by James Connolly was sent to the Left Communist group forum on www.revleft.com by a comrade in the US who has begun posting under the name Stagger Lee. We suggested that it could be published on our website and asked him to write a short introduction, and also asked him about his political ‘history'. He provided both and we found the personal history worthy of publishing as well, so it appears here in an appendix with the author's permission. 


This article by the Irish socialist James Connolly (1868 - 1916) was first published in The Workers' Republic in 1899. It lays out the marxist, hence internationalist, case for proletarian liberation. In this piece, Connolly presents the slogans of national "liberation", then juxtaposes them with a short remark highlighting the shortfalls of nationalism as a path for working class liberation. He shows how romantic calls of "freedom" in the context of nationalism have no class character nor can they ever. Connolly ends with a call for unity, not as a nation, but as a class. He calls not for the liberation of the Irish bourgeoisie, but for the working class. Workers have no country, but one struggle. Connolly's words ring as true today as it did then.

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 labor, 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 Labor.

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

Organize for a full, free and happy life FOR ALL OR FOR NONE

James Connolly, The Workers' Republic, 1899

Appendix: one individual's journey towards left communism

My interest in politics began shortly after 9/11, where I was a hardline neo-conservative who thought the United States should go around the world bringing freedom to countries that need it. A few years later, I watched an 8 hour video lecture by 2004 Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik about the U.S. Constitution, which turned me towards right wing libertarianism. I held consistent libertarian views for a good while until I found out that my sister was feeding my nephews with welfare and collecting unemployment. She was doing her best everyday to find a job, she went to school, and certainly not lazy. Libertarianism provided a veil that explained the crimes in the world without having to experience it. Libertarianism, unlike socialism, is a simple, pleasant sounding ideology that tells you what you want to hear.

When basic reality hit me that social ills were, shockingly, social and not individual failings, I was your typical American liberal. I soon found out about this Senator we have in this country called Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a "democratic socialist." Now I still regarded socialism as meaning everybody gets paid the same wage, government owns all the businesses, Stalin etc. I learned that nearly every country except the United States has a significant political party affiliated with the Socialist International. My (quick) revulsion at the weakness of American liberals to support single payer health care and other social reforms pushed me to democratic socialism.

My conversion to communism was pretty much by accident. In high school I chose to check out from the school library a biography on Leon Trotsky. The sole reason I did so was A. His facial hair B. Cool name and C. I wanted my teachers to freak out. Totally superficial reasons, but I still read it. I learned what socialism and communism actually are, a basic understanding of class society, and the rejection of reformism as a method to bring about socialism. I didn't consider myself a marxist yet because I still didn't know what it was, but I considered myself a communist. I was also an avid reader of Noam Chomsky, and he mentioned the Spanish Civil War as an example of "anarchism in action", so I decided to read up on it. The Spanish Revolution and the anarchist's story was so enthralling and inspirational, I became an anarchist. This is when I truly started reading leftist texts, by Kropotkin, Malatesta, Berkman, Goldman etc. Due to this I held typical anarchist misconceptions about what marxism is. I began reading about the debates between Bakunin and Marx, and instead of strengthening my anarchism, I tended to relate more with Marx. I chose to learn more about marxism, namely the critique of political economy, historical materialism and class theory. I then considered myself an "anarcho-marxist": someone who hailed from the anarchist tradition but held a marxian conception of society and history.

Many things happened at once that made me be attracted to Left Communism. One, I was a big supporter of Palestinian "liberation." I guess I had some sort of epiphany and realized that people have been fighting for Palestinian "liberation" for almost 50 years with absolutely no positive results. Imperialists arm the Israelis, but the Fatah party is under the auspices of imperialists as well, not to mention the outright reactionary character of Hamas.

I read the ICC's article about the state in the dictatorship of the proletariat, what it is and what it isn't. It cast aside my anarchist knee-jerk reaction against the word "state" by clearing up misconceptions and filling in blanks that I didn't consider. It made sense, and even more convincing was the analysis not based on the moralism that most critiques of the state are based on.

I read left communist literature about national liberation and it made a lot of sense to me, and put the ideas that I had floating around in my head in writing and in an organized manner.

I restarted my study about the Russian Revolution, the Bolshevik party, and Vladimir Lenin. My old rejection of the Revolution evaporated when I actually learned the facts. I realized the necessity for a vanguard party, not to lead or substitute the class, but to uphold a consistent proletarian position amongst the class. My old hatred of Lenin as a "corrupter" of socialism went away as well. There are many things he got wrong, and anybody who has any concern for socialism ought to level criticism against anyone when it is justified (something Lenin did frequently). There are also many things he was right about, and he was no doubt a true revolutionary to his dying day. Removing my biases allowed me to identify with ideas I would have irrationally rejected earlier.

I am a marxist, a communist, and an internationalist. The solution to our ills is world wide revolution. Workers don't have a country, but we do have each other. There is one struggle - the class struggle, and this struggle unites us together. Long live internationalism!

Stagger Lee 7/10



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