Extracted from the Irish Democrat on James Connolly, published with Morning Star's celebratory edition. Written by Anthony Coughlan, Director of the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, Ireland, and Associate Professor Emeritus of Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin.
James Connolly (1868-1916) was the Marxist socialist who was military commander of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin that started Ireland’s war of independence.
His life and writings are relevant to the left in Britain and across Europe today because of how they show that socialists, leftwingers and the labour movement generally should be the foremost defenders of national independence and national democracy as essential prerequisites for obtaining the social reforms and better world they seek.
Today the European Union has made the national question, the issue of who should make the laws, the central issue of European politics everywhere.
Should it be the national parliament of one’s own country in an independent sovereign state, or should it be the supranational EU Commission, Council of Ministers and Euro-Parliament in Brussels?
States like Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and others that once ruled huge empires and laid down the law for others are finding out nowadays how having to obey European Union laws has made national independence the main issue for them.
Connolly was executed by the British government for seeking to carve an independent Irish state out of the United Kingdom during World War I.
For that purpose he allied his trade union defence force, the Citizen Army, with the radical democrats of the Irish Republican Brotherhood to his political right in the Easter Rising.
By analogy, Britain’s Labour Brexiteers are in the Connolly tradition when they co-operate today with Conservative, Ukip and other Brexiteers on their political right to help take back control for the British state and escape from the coils of the European Union treaties.
These treaties enshrine the classical capitalist laissez-faire – free movement of goods, persons, capital and labour – as constitutional principles on a continent-wide scale.
They are the first constitution in history to be drawn up entirely in the interest of High Finance and Big Capital, without the slightest democratic element. They amount in effect to a contract not to have socialism.
Their provisions would make the programme of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party impossible to implement. That is why the most urgent political task for Labourites and socialists in Britain today is to implement the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum and get the whole of the UK out of the EU – really out of it, not just half way in and half out. For the EU is the face of modern imperialism in our part of the world today.