Revisionism and the Politics of James Connolly

Updated on November 21, 2019
Seven Stars Media profile image

The author is a QUB Political Science honours graduate, a political analyst and has written on a variety of related issues.

It is glaringly irrational for purely nationalist parties in Ireland, such as Provisional Sinn Féin, to continue to pretend to Connolly's ideological legacy, but it's not surprising given that entity's flair 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 Féin.

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 Féin, a party that was founded in 1905 and of which he was very much aware of. Connolly, a 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-leader of Sinn Féin, 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.

James Connolly addressing an International Workers Day rally, Union Sq, New York.
James Connolly addressing an International Workers Day rally, Union Sq, New York.

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 its message, 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 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 summit, 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 assertion from a party whose well-documented aim is for a unitary Capitalist Ireland that sees no contradiction in glad-handing the world's most vicious imperialists, such as Obama, Blair et al.

James Connolly was co-founder of the Irish Citizens Army - Europe's first Red Army
James Connolly was co-founder of the Irish Citizens Army - Europe's first Red Army

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!

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, soapboxie.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://soapboxie.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)