The words of Patrick Galvin’s famous song carry a resounding resonance in today’s Ireland. With the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising fast approaching, Ireland, now more than ever truly needs a hero of the workingman and workingwoman! James Connolly was the most significant figure in the history of the class struggle on this island and it is he who remains the central-figure in the fight against the forces of capitalism today. It is his spirit that needs to be invoked from beyond the grave to spur the slumbering slaves that have yet to fill his name with pride.
They swore they would form a mighty union – how they have disappointed! While today’s unions parade the tokenistic image of Connolly on their banners, it must not be ignored how they have pacified the workers and fouled the memory of the socialist revolutionary by taking from the workers their greatest weapon and by creating a mere symbol out of the man who proclaimed ‘let us organise as a class to meet our masters and destroy their mastership’. What would he think of these men who lead our unions today? Who call on his writings to suit their own parasitic agenda, who twist the very essence of his memory to advance their selfish needs and who fool the workers into trusting their bureaucracies while rendering them impotent by decommissioning the most feared weapon in the arsenal of the organized worker; the strike! These so-called unions, these lifeless coffin ships that carry the ghosts of capitalism are but themselves a tool of the elite to keep the worker subdued while protecting their own interests and those of their masters! What will it take to resurrect these dormant bodies that once stood at the frontline in the class war and faced the baton charges of the states mercenaries with no fear?
When might the workingman be free? – The ruling elite on both sides of the border will have you believe that our economy, and in turn, our communities as a whole are nothing without the multi-national companies that invest in Ireland. How they boast with pride from their perches in both Stormont and Leinster House when they announce the arrival of more of these companies to our shores to exploit our workers and to take advantage of our ridiculously low corporate tax! Our highly educated, vastly skilled and dedicated workforce seems destined to labour for the scraps that these billion-dollar corporations throw them and the unsustainable employment they provide. And so the worker remains enslaved; rising energy bills, mortgage repayments, extortionate childcare costs, increasing taxes and both health and education quickly becoming unaffordable privileges, it is no wonder then that the proletariat passively abides to the rules that the capitalist society has dictated to them. Oh how they long for that mighty union.
Who will carry the burning flag? – Many political movements on this island parade the image of Connolly as they rally their numbers up the hill and back down again. But they do so in the same vain as the high street fashion outlets that parade the image of Ché Guevara on their t-shirts produced by child-slaves in distant lands; a complete contradiction in terms! The partitionist Trotskyist parties will use his teachings while they wave the Red Flag in one hand and their election poster in the other, yet ignore the issue of national liberation which Connolly recognised as a vital step in the destruction of capitalism and imperialism in Ireland and further afield. Likewise the constitutional nationalist parties will wave the Starry Plough in one hand and their election poster in the other as they quote James Connolly to suit their agenda. But it was Connolly himself who wrote, ‘all bourgeois movements end in compromise… the bourgeois revolutionists of today become the conservatives of tomorrow’, a point which proves true when you consider the Tory cuts carried out by the constitutional nationalists in the 6 Counties. Why should we believe they would act any differently if they were in government in the 26 counties, after all their hands would be tied by the EU as opposed to Westminister. The social-democrats of the Labour Party would have you believe that it is they who are carrying on the legacy of Connolly, while they impose water charges, force workers into unpaid internships, slash vital services and implement many more anti-social policies to suit their masters in Europe. But these quislings fear the strength of the organised working-class, and that is who will carry the burning flag.
As working-class communities all across the country are organisng to fight the introduction of water charges and other neo-liberal ventures the spirit of Connolly and the Citizens Army is clearly present. It is present in the voice of the women that are standing up against the brutality inflicted on them and their families by the guards. It is present among the fearless workers that are occupying businesses and standing up for their rights all over the country to claim their just rewards; from the Greyhound workers in Dublin to the Highway 6 in Cork, and to the Unite health care workers across the six counties. It is present among all those that are actively resisting Irish Water from installing their meters and among those that are organising the public meetings and protests. And it was present in Blackpool on Friday the 21st of November last when Enda Kenny was given a warm rebel welcome by the Cork working-class, and that is who will carry the burning flag. Through community activist groups and anti-austerity movements, through organized and democratic labour movements, through the sovereignty of the people and the struggle for social justice and equality, it is the Irish working class who remain the legitimate heirs to the legacy of Connolly and it is the organized working class that will bring the rotten capitalist system tumbling down. ‘The great only appear great because we are on our knees. Let us arise!!