“Ireland without her people is nothing to me,” James Connolly wrote in 1900. This phrase has been repeatedly quoted, in isolation, especially by those who wish to promote a workerist and non-national (or anti-national) view of James Connolly.
Anyone who reads the sentence intelligently can see that Connolly condemned those who claim to defend only the people or the complex of phenomena that we call “Ireland,” rather than both—as he did.
Earlier, Connolly had scathingly denounced “the patriot who won’t touch socialism.” Today we are more likely to encounter the socialist who won’t touch patriotism. A kind of socialism—even a kind of alleged Marxism—has been created that claims that national independence and sovereignty are of no consequence for the working class, which should engage only in a “pure and simple” class struggle, leading no doubt to a pure and simple socialism.
In a colonial or neo-colonial country, such as ours, this emasculated view of socialism plays into the hands of imperialism and its local agents, who are fully aware that it presents no threat to their power.
Just before his death Connolly is believed to have said to his daughter: “The socialists will never understand why I am here; they will all forget that I am an Irishman.”
James Connolly made it clear in all his writings, and even more so in his life, that his commitment was to the whole range of phenomena that constitute a nation: the people, together with their history, their culture, their historical territory and its landscape. This is what is called patriotism.
Connolly made no bones about his Irish patriotism. Nor do we.