A talk by the historian John Ford
James Connolly (1868-1916) was born in the slums of Edinburgh, where he received only a basic primary education and seemed, like many of his peers, destined to struggle through life, working for low wages in grinding poverty.
He joined the British army at a very young age and was posted to Ireland. Being of Irish descent his sympathy was for the poor and downtrodden of Dublin, and the rest of the country. He saw no difference between the lot of the tenant farmer under the yoke of a landlord and that of an Edinburgh factory worker under a capitalist. A strong family man, he devoted his whole life to attempting to revolutionise the economic system so that his children and future generations would have hope, security and a better life.
His socialist ideas were rejected often by the very people he was trying to emancipate. Having founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party in Dublin, it split after a few years and Connolly was forced to emigrate to the United States of America. He was active with a number of socialist organisations, most notably the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party of America. However, he spent the last six years of his life fighting against British imperialism and Irish capitalism.
James Connolly linked nationalism with socialism. His articles and books, written in an accessible and straight-forward style, are still read relevant today. He never wavered on the road to revolution and, as head of the Irish Citizen Army, he joined forces with the Irish Republican Brotherhood and led an insurrection against British rule in Ireland.
Connolly’s last moments were spent in a chair in the stone-breakers’ yard in Kilmainham Gaol, where, in the early hours of 12 May 1916, a British army firing squad took his life. However, his ideals, his words and his dreams live on and, perhaps, his wishes for a better world and a better future will one day be fulfilled.