Monday, May 12, 2008

James Connolly Commemoration, 1949

No, the blog is not jumping on the James Connolly bandwagon on this day, the anniversary of his execution by the British State.

Just thought I'd take the opportunity to post a link to the text of a leaflet that dates from 1949, and was produced by the Dublin Socialist Group for distribution at events organised in the city to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the execution of James Connolly.

James Connolly Commemoration, 1949

The Dublin Socialist Group were a handful of working class men and women who agreed with the Object and D of P of what we now know as the World Socialist Movement. They later linked up with socialists in Belfast and elsewhere in Ireland to form the Socialist Party of Ireland (later changed to the World Socialist Party of Ireland).

Despite the fact that our tradition's opposition to nationalism - red tinged, 'anti-imperialist' or otherwise - has meant that we are one of the few groups with a journal in the magazine rack at Housmans to not claim the mantle of Connolly at some point or other, our early history has links with a period in Connolly's political life that might be of interest to those readers interested in working class history.

The most obvious connection is the 'impossibilist split' that took place within the Social Democratic Federation in the early part of the last century.

The post-it note version of this historical split is that a group of SDF members dissatisfied with - amongst other things - the SDF's leaderships overtures to reformist currents within the Labour movement (the SDF were one of the original signatories to the Labour Representation Committee in 1900); the SDF's very own wobbles over the whole reform/revolution debate; and Hyndman's autocratic rule over the SDF and its publications, formed an opposition faction within the SDF.

Based primarily in Scotland and London, these two groups - after a raft of expulsions and splits from the SDF in the 1903/04 period - were to become the Socialist Labour Party of Great Britain and the Socialist Party of Great Britain. One of the leading lights of the group in Scotland that became the SLP was Connolly, the editor of The Socialist newspaper which had been a pole of attraction for SDF oppositionists in Scotland and which became the official newspaper of the SLP when it was formed in 1903.

Though Connolly himself had been central to the 'Scotch current' that was to become the SLP, he soon after emigrated to the United States (in 1903) to - do amongst other things - join the Socialist Labor Party of the United States; help with the founding of the IWW; have a political barney with Daniel De Leon and to form the Irish Socialist Federation in New York in 1907/08.

The Connolly and the London impossibilists connection? Well, the first General Secretary of the SPGB was an Irishman by the name of Con Lehane, who had earlier been a member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party. According to his wiki page - granted it was probably written by an SPGBer - Lehane was one of the more prominent members of the IRSP during its short history: the secretary of its branch in Cork and a regular writer for its paper, 'The Workers' Republic'.

Another Irishman with past membership of the IRSP, and who also helped found the SPGB, was Valentine McEntee. He's best known today - if he's known at all - for his latter career in the Labour Party. A member of parliament for over twenty years and later 'elevated' into the House of Lords as 1st Baron McEntee. If I'd known that earlier, I'd have placed a 'Red Baron' comment somewhere in the post but it's too late to groan now.

Further Reading on all things Connolly, Ireland, Impossibilism and everything in-between:

  • James Connolly - An Assessment
  • 1914 Socialist Standard review of Connolly’s 'Labour in Irish History'
  • Ireland - Past, Present and Future (SPGB pamphlet from 1983)
  • Getting Lippy Gets You Lifted Into The Liffey
  • Northern Ireland: Our first election campaign
  • Hat tip to ALB for the Dublin Socialist Group text.

    The James Connolly woodcut is by the late Irish artist, Harry Kernoff.

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