Come celebrate James Connolly and the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising with Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Ireland’s Easter Rising. But what could a failed uprising of a hundred years ago have to tell us now? Three major themes, arising again in contemporary struggles, give the Easter Rising, and especially James Connolly's leadership, urgency and relevance today.
1. National liberation and popular sovereignty: who are the people and how will the people be united?
The Easter Rising was a harbinger of all that was to follow in the 20th Century-most significantly, the wave of decolonization that began after World War II and continued throughout the 1960s and 70s including the Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions. It need hardly be mentioned that these struggles are far from resolved, hardly a corner of the globe remaining unscathed by the violent convulsions they manifest.
2. Armed struggle, the popular will, and the legitimacy of the state: what conditions must prevail for non-violent, civil disobedience to give way to insurrection?
The Easter Rising confronted the monopoly of violence on the part of the state in a context framed by the rebels-not parliamentary representatives. The Rising proclaimed in word and deed the illegitimacy of British authority, laying bare the irreconcilable conflict between that authority and liberty or democracy of any conceivable kind. This furthermore exposed the deeper rifts in Irish society itself giving voice to the demands of the oppressed against the deeply entrenched reaction of the church and landed aristocracy.
3. Leadership, Socialism, Connolly.
The role of James Connolly is pivotal. Not only did Connolly tirelessly battle for a Workers’ Republic of public ownership under workers' direction, but he made the analysis and took the practical steps to ensure the historic moment offered by Easter 1916 was not lost. It was Connolly and his Irish Citizen Army that dispelled all uncertainty on the part of various rebel factions, to make insurrection the means through which history would speak. That the Easter Rising would be followed a year later by the Russian Revolution gives a perspective on the world-historic moment presented by first imperialist world war.
History does not exactly repeat itself but certain crucial features of our current dilemma more closely resemble those preceding WW I than those prevailing in the Sixties, the last great revolutionary upsurge. In particular, inter-imperialist conflict dwarfs and drowns out popular attempts to resist. Factions and sectarian squabbling characterize a battered and demoralized Left. Similar conditions faced revolutionaries in 1916. We can learn from their example.
From the publication of Songs of Freedom in 1907 to the declaration of the Irish Republic on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin 1916, Connolly's vision was a beacon in the struggle for liberation. Using Connolly's own songs along with others made famous in Ireland's fight for independence, Callahan and Moore perform a spirited tribute to the rebels of Easter Week and the leadership of James Connolly.