James Connolly Commemoration, Arbour Hill, Dublin

Address by Alexander Homits, general secretary, Connolly Youth Movement
13 May 2018

Comrades! Friends!
     Today we stand under our banner and flag to commemorate the execution of an inspirational figure in the history of our class, he who was executed for his role in the Easter Rising, and he who brought forward the understanding of republicanism among the myriad of contradictions it faced. His name was Connolly! Connolly, who eviscerated the reformists, the nationalists, and those looking for compromise. He, like Wolfe Tone, laid down for the movement of the time that the vanguard of revolution in Ireland would be the dispossessed, the men of no property, and those divorced from the wealth they create.
     My name is Alex. I have been a member of the Connolly Youth Movement and the Communist Party of Ireland since August 2014, and I am honoured to be able to speak this year. It is a curious thing to commemorate a man whose ideas are so written out of the Irish history curriculum that growing up here you would think he did not exist. Yet he did exist, and the impact on Irish history and the struggle for liberation is something we continue to evaluate and feel today. Connolly redirected the historical undercurrents of Irish republicanism and in life and death energised a conflict-ridden movement with firm, concrete leadership.
     Connolly cut through the abstract notions of freedom, liberty, and independence. He determined sovereignty in the most concrete and immediate terms and articulated this in an earlier political programme for the Irish Socialist Republican Party, a document many of you are familiar with. What underpinned this document and what Connolly understood: for us, the people of Ireland, to feel, express and guarantee our liberation we must also own the mechanisms that organise the functions of our society. To Connolly, and to us, this means that the banks, the ports, the canals, the factories and the overall control of production of all commodities that we use and require on a day-to-day basis.
     Connolly argued that for Ireland to be free from the exploitation that it suffered under the occupation and colonisation of the British Empire, the landlord-employer caste in Ireland would also have to be dealt with. A changing of the flag over Dublin Castle or a change of the accent of your landlord was neither an acceptable nor a sufficient solution to the question of freedom. “Freedom in capitalist society always remains the same as it was in ancient Greece: freedom for the slave-owners”—the words of Lenin which resonate with the analysis Connolly developed on the question of the national liberation of Ireland.
     Where does that bring us today, and why is the analysis Connolly provided for early twentieth-century Ireland relevant? Opponents and critics of Connolly will tell us that “times have changed,” and we must accustom ourselves to that. North and south of the border, the workers of Ireland are being hammered by the exploiter classes. We’re called “generation rent”: unable to afford to live or work towards secure housing. Hundreds of thousands of people simply pack their bags and leave, motivated not by some sort of innate desire to find adventure abroad but because the state and its parliamentary “social democrats” have robbed young people of all opportunities. Emigration becomes the only available option to find life elsewhere; emigration becomes the only chance at a rich life of opportunities. The historical role of emigration in Ireland and the mass displacement of the Irish people have always been used as a weapon to confiscate land; today it is used to alleviate the austerity policies that destroy rural and urban communities.
     Austerity, a mechanism that transfers wealth from the workers to the ruling class, has also implicitly thrown young people into an almost inescapable abyss: no decently paid work, no housing, no access to proper health services, and no value for the education that we’re rigorously asked to pursue after school. Why are we working? Why are we paying rent? Is it in our own interest that we wake up every morning, or in the interest of a parasitical exploiter class? Just over a year ago the European Broadcasting Union conducted research among 18 to 34-year-olds, and one of the questions they asked was whether they would join an uprising against the government. 54 per cent of all those surveyed confirmed that they would. 45 per cent of those polled said they did not trust politicians at all, while 80 per cent of men and 78 cent of women said they could be happy without religious beliefs.
     What do any of these results mean, coupled with the increasing deprivation brought on young people by the ever-advancing forces of capital? What conclusions do young communists in the Connolly Youth Movement draw?
     The deprivation brought about to working people and young people is in a dialectical relationship to the politicisation and radicalisation of young people. The more opportunities we are stripped of, the more difficult our conditions become, the less we are paid and the more we must pay, the angrier we become. The task of the Connolly Youth Movement as a class-conscious and communist youth organisation is to provide an understanding of the anger that young people are facing and hone it. Our task is to give clarity to what is unclear today, and we are making slow but steady gains in that respect.
     For a quarter of a century the Connolly Youth Movement has not seen the growth we are now experiencing. Previous general secretaries have done stellar work that we are now building on, consolidating and advancing. The Connolly Youth Movement is seeing a resurgence in dramatically different conditions from when it was founded, and it makes me very excited to be a member and be a witness to this. When the Connolly Youth Movement was founded, Ireland was in political and military turmoil, as was the world. The USSR offered a place where international communists could find refuge, training, and help, something that both the Connolly Youth Movement and the Communist Party of Ireland miss greatly, no doubt.
     Yet we have other factors to rejoice over. The hegemony that the two main political parties enjoyed collapsed in 2011. This is not a simple accident but a result of the long-oppressed people of Ireland expressing themselves in the limited form of a bourgeois republic, the ballot box. There is more! For the collapse in hegemony is not simply reflected in the political parties but also in the Catholic Church. The poll cited above demonstrates that organised religious institutions in Ireland have been hit by a very powerful crisis, one that they are failing to recover from.
     The collapse of support for the traditional political parties, the loss of faith in what was essentially the state religion and the crisis of 2008 tell me and my comrades in the Connolly Youth Movement one simple truth. There is a great awakening of my generation on the horizon in our society, an awakening that the Connolly Youth Movement will firmly be at the heart of. That is where the Connolly Youth Movement is at today, a period of growth, opportunity, and development.
     For a century the ideas of James Connolly have been carried on by the communist movement and socialist republicans, and for a century they have been attacked, imprisoned, killed and persecuted for their desire, want for a better and more egalitarian society, as Connolly himself outlined. These obstacles have slowly fallen away, and our growth faces far less immediate obstructions.
     Comrades, the great awakening of young people is upon us, and the Connolly Youth Movement will endeavour to be there, at every point, moment and struggle that our generation is engaged in. We will fly the red flag and make it known, we will not compromise!

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