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James Connolly (1868-1916), murdered by British authorities, was an Irish nationalist and socialist who advocated industrial unionism.


"It is often queried why Connolly fought in 1916 when he knew that they were 'going out to be slaughtered' and when he knew that a national revolution could not easily be turned into a social revolution. [In explanation,] there is a widespread anecdote that he told the socialists fighting in 1916 to hold onto their guns because after the rising they may well have to fight against those they had just fought beside. The simple answer is he thought that a national revolution needed to be a social revolution in order to succeed. Ireland couldn't be free until the working class of Ireland was free. And because of that, he felt that a national revolution could lead to a social revolution. Quite clearly the social revolution never happened but it very nearly did. It is worth remembering that both the influence of Connolly and the part that Labour played in the Irish National Revolution ensured that the Democratic Programme of the Irish Republic, agreed at the first sitting of the first D•il (Irish Parliament) on January 21st 1919, read: 'We declare in the words of the Irish Republican Proclamation the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland... we declare that the nation's sovereignty extends... [to] all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation,... declare it is the duty of the Nation that every citizen shall have opportunity to spend his or her strength and faculties in the service of the people. In return for willing service, we, in the name of the Republic, declare the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the Nation's labour.... It shall also devolve upon the National Government to seek... a standard of Social and Industrial Legislation with a view to a general and lasting improvement in the conditions under which the working classes live and labour.... We declare and we desire our country to be ruled in accordance with the principles of Liberty, Equality, and Justice for all...' If this seems radical the draft democratic programme was more so. It included the passage: 'It shall be the purpose of the Government to encourage the organisation of the people/citizens into Trade Unions and Co-operative Societies with a view to the control and administration of the industries by the workers engaged in those industries.' These passages from one of the founding documents of the Irish Republic give an indication of the revolutionary intentions of many republican activists during the Irish National Revolution, a revolution that involved widespread working class militancy with Soviets being declared in Cork and Limerick and workers frequently seizing their workplaces. All this when five years previously the seeds of a socialist movement scarcely existed in Ireland! This shows how close Ireland came to the Social Revolution that Connolly dreamed of and gave his life for. This revolution can't be achieved by means of a lobby, or a parliament or a coup d'etat. This revolution will only be achieved when the ordinary people of the world, us, the working class, get up off our knees and take back what is rightfully ours; namely, everything."

—Oisin Mac Giollamoir, "The Ideas of James Connolly:

The Single Most Important Figure in the History of the Irish Left"


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