It is an honour and a privilege for me to speak here today on behalf of éirígí at the gravesides of the principal leaders of the 1916 revolution, on this the 91st anniversary of the executions of James Connolly & Sean MacDiarmada.
Today is also the 26th anniversary of the death on hunger strike of the great freedom fighter Francis Hughes. We salute his commitment and sacrifice in the struggle for the liberation of Ireland.
It is indeed truly an honour and a privilege to be here today. But more-so it presents éirígí, and all of those who would dare to approach this hallowed place in homage of Connolly, with the greatest of challenges & responsibilities - that being, to resolve to strive & struggle tirelessly for the realisation of an Irish Socialist Republic; this revolutionary objective (that has itself come to be embodied in the very name James Connolly) being a logical and essential progression from the Democratic Republican objective contained within the 1916 Proclamation that those who lie here were signatories to.
Commitment to this objective is the only form of homage that Connolly would have understood.
To come here and commit to do anything less or anything different would be an affront to his memory and to the memory of all those interred here.
On realising that he was to be executed, and that British bullets would shortly tear through his captured, wounded body, Connolly did not complain. He would have expected nothing less. Being a revolutionary and a soldier, he understood that this is what his enemies had to do, given that in the struggle between the present and the future, the British Empire had a world to lose, and, those ‘people of no property’ he represented, ‘a world to gain’.
Of the hypocrisy of those who claim to be Socialists & Republicans yet practice a politics that represent the very opposite of these two interrelated democratic ideas, he would have been scathing. Of those who prostitute the meaning of Socialism & Republicanism, he would have condemned as being the worst enemies of the people of Ireland.
Writing in 1898 with regard to Wolfe Tone and the propensity of the Establishment to appropriate for themselves the legacy and memory of our patriot dead while at the same time obscuring, denying and indeed, subverting the radical import of their ‘dangerous ideas’, he wrote:
“Wolfe Tone and his comrades were overwhelmed by the treachery of their own countrymen more than by the force of the foreign enemy. He (Wolfe Tone) was crucified in life, now he is idolised in death, and the men who push forward most arrogantly to burn incense at the altar of his fame are drawn from the very class who, were he alive today, would hasten to repudiate him as a dangerous malcontent”.
The same could be said of those who today make but rhetorical and superficial reference to the life and work of Connolly.
When éirígí was initially founded we were very conscious of the enormity of the decision we had taken and of the work we had to do. We were very conscious of the very weak condition which the Socialist Republican constituency in Ireland found itself in at the beginning of the 21st century. We had come to a point of acknowledging that the potential that had existed for the realisation of a deep and broad current for revolutionary change had been subverted and corralled into the reactionary space of Constitutional Nationalism, if however temporarily.
We find ourselves in this cul-de-sac today primarily because the Republican struggle as a phenomenon at large has at no time actually attempted in any concerted way to develop a revolutionary socialist understanding of the economic & political changes required in Ireland, nor has it defined the nature of the socialism it often proclaims would reign within a future Republic.
There has been an abject failure to inculcate a revolutionary socialist consciousness within the Republican community with regard to the real nature of the struggle in Ireland. The failure of this struggle, as always, has been a failure to understand, as Connolly attested, that: “A Socialist Republic is the application to agriculture and industry; to the farm, the field, the workshop, of the democratic principle of the republican ideal.”
The failure to make this demand a real & central element of the Republican programme has in great part been the reason why the struggle for national independence itself has failed. This is, ultimately, because working people have no real and abiding affinity with a Nationalism that is concerned only with borders and the control of territory. One can neither eat a flag nor live in it. It is the social relations extant in a community, society or nation that are of real importance. Resistance to British rule must in essence be about the rejection of a philosophy that would hold the interests of one class as being superior to those of another.
What we must resolve to do then at this juncture is rescue the Republican struggle from the Nationalist & reformist cul-de-sac within which it finds itself.
Writing in An Shan Van Vocht in 1897, Connolly asserted how:
“If the national movement of our day is not merely to re-enact the old sad tragedies of our past history, it must show itself capable of rising to the exigencies of the moment. It must demonstrate to the people of Ireland that our nationalism is not merely a morbid idealising of the past, but is also capable of formulating a distinct and definite answer to the problems of the present and a political and economic creed capable of adjustment to the wants of the future. This concrete political and social ideal will best be supplied, I believe, by the frank acceptance on the part of ail earnest nationalists of the Republic as their goal”.
Today the challenge for all of those who would subscribe to the Republican ideal of economic and national sovereignty & independence, is to acknowledge that the necessary prerequisite for the achievement of these objectives is the development of a Socialist Republican Movement, anchored in the solid foundations of a coherent revolutionary ideology. There is no other way to realise this goal.
At our inception we set ourselves the task of reformulating a position that was reflective of the need to re-wed the struggle for Socialism to that of the struggle for national independence. One cannot be had without the other. The simple fact is that they are one and indivisible.
Therefore, the realisation of the Republic is predicated upon the conjoining of a revolutionary position with regard to the socio-economic changes necessary in Ireland with that of a rejection of Britain’s continuing occupation of the six-county area.
The real nature of Britain’s role in Ireland today is, in the final analysis, the same as it has always been. The British establishment remains wedded to an imperialist conception of its role in the world. Tony Blair, that great democrat & manager of the ‘peace process’ in Ireland, himself endorsed this position in 2002 when writing the introduction to Robert Cooper’s book Reordering the World, a book wherein Cooper speaks of the need for a ‘new imperialism’ for the 21st century. From Afghanistan to Iraq we see the truth of the matter: that ‘business as usual’ is the order of the day in the realm of international relations.
Ireland is a country where a part of the national territory continues to be under military & political occupation, albeit in modified and up-dated form. Any movement that has as its objective the establishment of an Irish Socialist Republic must have the ending of the British occupation as a central aspect of its political programme and strategic considerations. It must be uncompromising in its rejection of continuing imperialism and occupation as being any basis upon which normalisation of relations between Ireland and Britain can occur.
The most immediate challenge today for revolutionary Socialist Republicans is to reclaim Connolly from those who have reduced him to an historical curiosity; the challenge today is to reclaim the Republic for which he lived, struggled and died.
When éirígí was last here, on Easter Sunday one year ago, we were just seven people. Today we are much bigger and stronger. Therefore, in recognition of the reality, as Connolly stated, that:
“An Irish Republic…will never be realized except by a revolutionary party that proceeds upon the premise that the capitalist and the landlord classes in town and country in Ireland are criminal accomplices with the British government, in the enslavement and subjection of the nation”…. And, that “such a revolutionary party must be Socialist, and from Socialism alone can the salvation of Ireland come”,
We in éirígí, today at our Ard Fheis, took a decision to re-constitute ourselves as a political party.
Ours is to help build a movement that will expose the contradictions of, and, ultimately, sweep away the rotten economic & social structure upon which this society is based. In its place, the imperative is that we set about the construction of the very antithesis of the present society & world within which we live: that of a “free federation of free peoples”, of which a 32-county Democratic Socialist Republic, based upon the principles of sovereignty, democracy, liberty, justice, equality, community & international solidarity, is an indispensable part. There is no other option.
Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews +
Letters + Archives