Tuesday, May 12, 2015

James Connolly was shot 99 years ago, strapped to a chair, because he would not stand by while World War I raged

'My name is James Connolly and I didn't come here to die..."

On May 12, 99 years ago, the British authorities occupying Ireland shot dead of the greatest figures of the pre-1917 socialist movement, who had fought for workers' and human liberation in three countries -- Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

A prisoner of the British crown after the failed Irish Rising in Easter 1916 that sought to throw off British rule, of which he was the military commander, he couldn't even stand due to an injury sustained during the fighting. (Connolly, with an ankle shattered by a bullet, had continued for days to direct the rebels from a stretcher.) So, to place him before the firing squad, they strapped him into a chair and shot him anyway.

The Easter Rising was never just for Irish freedom, and no one captured its internationalist cause better than Connolly, its most left-wing, clear-sighted leader who headed the world's first workers' militia, the Irish Citizen's Army, which joined with the Irish Republican Brotherhood forces.

The rising, especially for Connolly, was intended as a blow against the British Empire, then one of the main belligerents sacrificing the lives of millions of young working-class men in unprecedented slaughter across Europe. With British recruitment of often desperate, unemployed Irish men escalating and the threat of conscription looming, the Irish folk song about the rising, The Foggy Dew, puts it clearly, "Twas better to die 'neath and Irish sky than at Sulva of Sud el-Bar" -- where hundreds of Irish men did dieas members of the British Army in the disastrous Gallipoli invasion.

It was intended, not as an end in itself, but as a first blow against the barbarism drowning Europe in blood -- and while the rising fell, a more decisive and lasting blow came in Russia the next year and it is no coincidence that its leader, V.I. Lenin, was a staunch defender of the Irish rebels.

You can read more about this shit here, here and the depth of Connolly's thought and lasting contribution to international socialism here.

Does James Connolly and his struggles have any relevance to our times? Well... lets ask modern Irish singer Damien Dempsey as he sings the song below to a huge protest in against water charges, the largest part of the Irish people's fight back against crippling austerity, in Dublin last November...

'Where oh where is our James Connolly.... HE'S HERE!'

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