Labour in Irish History by James Connolly
James Connolly was a political force who lived and died for what he believed in, the fight for a free and united Ireland, He had complete faith in the will of the working class to realise this aspiration and this book discusses the history of Ireland and its people with heart and intellectual rigour. Connolly frames the struggle of Ireland as one against capitalism and by extension colonialism, through a sophisticated analysis of the material conditions of Ireland he concludes that this system is foreign to the country and therefore must be overthrown. In any time and place, revolutions are the product of ripe conditions which act as the basis of established facts and the actions taken based on those. This Marxist interpretation of history doesn't present socialism as an abstract construction but instead suggests that an ideological system should not be imposed but rather develop organically. Of course, the intervention of the ever dastardly British makes that more difficult and it justifies a more intense struggle with the aim of liberation to then freely develop a nation in the image of its people. The agrarian character of Ireland is highlighted in the book and it gives the country the potential to change the course of its development and the class dynamics on its own terms if not for pesky outside meddling!
As well as the English sticking their oar in the Irish ruling class had a lot of wealth to lose if more was given to the majority of people. Therefore counter-irritants were used to divide the masses and direct them away from questioning economic conditions which would potentially outrage enough to spark a social revolution. Wars, racism, patriotism, religion and many more issues are used to agitate and distract. Connolly had a keen eye for Irish society and his understanding of class interests were an asset to his particular struggle for an independent Ireland. Greater political freedom would challenge the established structures and the rich and powerful would not like that one bit, which means it will not be easy to achieve. That is no reason to stop attempting change as even if a new historical epoch is far away it is definitely on the horizon. I loved this book and predict I will read it many times more! The fight for the means to life is an international one, yet this book highlights the importance of national struggle based on the conditions of society in that place. Material analysis cannot separate the struggle from what gave rise to it, and in fact, the link should be emphasised to stir the conscience and the realisation that current conditions don’t have to be endured wherever you live.