James Connolly

James Connolly

Irish trade union leader
Date of Birth: 05.06.1868
Country: Ireland

Biography of James Connolly

James Connolly was an Irish leader of the trade union movement and one of the early socialists. He was also the organizer of the Irish Citizen Army. Connolly was born on June 5, 1868, in Cowgate, an Irish quarter in Edinburgh. His education was limited to four or five classes in a Catholic elementary school. At the age of 14, Connolly joined the British army, hiding his age, and served for seven years, mostly in Ireland, before deserting in 1889.

In 1890, he married a Protestant maid named Lillian Reynolds whom he met in Dublin. Connolly returned to Edinburgh and worked as a garbage collector. He was involved in organizing professional unions and socialist groups, spoke at meetings, wrote articles for socialist newspapers, and sought to adapt Marxist teachings to the Irish independence movement.

In 1893, Connolly became the secretary of the Scottish Socialist Federation and in 1894, the secretary of the Edinburgh branch of the Scottish Labour Party. He ran for municipal elections and in 1896, he moved to Dublin and founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP), which aimed to combine the struggle for socialism with the fight for national liberation. In 1898, he started the newspaper "The Worker's Republic" to promote the ISRP's program.

Together with Irish actress Maud Gonne, Connolly organized demonstrations against the planned celebrations for Queen Victoria's 60th anniversary of reign in 1897, as well as against the visits of the Queen and other members of the royal family to Ireland. In 1902, American socialist D. De Leon financed Connolly's lecture tour in the United States, presenting him as an Irish Catholic socialist. In 1903, Connolly emigrated to the US, where he was involved in the creation of organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Irish Socialist Federation (1905). He gave lectures, collaborated with socialist press, and worked as a publisher, editor, and author of the newspaper "The Harp." He wrote his major books and pamphlets, including "Labour in Irish History" (1910), "Labour, Nationality, and Religion," "Socialism Made Easy," and "Old Wine in New Bottles," in which he clearly outlined his concept of a socialist Gaelic Republic of Ireland, independent in economic, political, and cultural terms from Britain and the US.

After returning to Ireland in 1910, Connolly chose Belfast as the main base of his activities for the next three years. Together with J. Larkin, he led the largest union, the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union. Connolly led the famous Dublin strike from August 1913 to January 1914, which began with the arrest of Larkin and the dismissal of union members. When Connolly himself was imprisoned, he went on a hunger strike. He achieved his release and soon secured freedom for Larkin. Connolly led tens of thousands of striking workers in Dublin.

Police raids on the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union protesters prompted Connolly to establish the Irish Citizen Army, which aimed to defend the rights of the Irish people. After Larkin's departure to the US in 1915 to raise funds, Connolly took over the leadership of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union. He saw the First World War as an opportunity for Ireland to achieve independence, as Britain was occupied with fighting on the continent. Connolly was appointed the military leader of the rebellion that aimed to proclaim an independent Irish Republic and commanded the armed uprising, which began on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, with the capture of the main post office in Dublin. The rebellion was brutally suppressed. Alongside other leaders of the uprising, Connolly was sentenced to death and executed in Dublin on May 12, 1916.