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The Tragedy of James Connolly
By Reverend Father Denis Fahey, C.S.Sp.
Published, September, 1947; reprinted May 1988
Omni/Christian Books, Box 216, Hawthorne, CA 90251
Paperback, $3.50

Reviewed by Patricius Anthony

This year, 2016, marks the centennial anniversary of the Easter Rising, an abortive attempt to establish an independent Irish state, led by a small group of republican and socialist insurgents, one of whom was the leftist leader, James Connolly (1868-1916). So far, there have been numerous books, articles, documentaries, and lectures in remembrance of the event throughout Ireland.

Connolly and about a dozen or so revolutionaries marched on Dublin's main post office on April 24, 1916, to declare, and then establish, a republic. The attempt failed and most of the ring leaders were executed by British authorities. Connolly himself was shot, strapped to a chair. He had been wounded during the uprising and could not stand because of injuries suffered during the siege.

The brutal nature in which the rebels were dealt with garnered great sympathy among the Irish public and helped fuel the independence movement. In 1922, the Anglo-Irish Treaty created the Irish Free State, a "self-governing Dominion of the Commonwealth of Nations in the manner of Canada and Australia." The treaty provided that the six counties of Northern Ireland could stay within the United Kingdom which they did. In 1937, with the adoption of a constitution, the Irish Free State renamed itself "Ireland" and in 1949, it formerly declared itself a republic.

While James Connolly was a staunch devotee of Marxism, neither he nor the more moderate republican revolutionaries which took part in the uprising sought to establish a land based on the principles of the Kingship of Christ. Instead, and ultimately to its detriment, Ireland went the way of the nations which adopted the ideals of the Enlightenment, French Revolution and later, that of Bismarkian social democracy.

Although Ireland remained "conservative" in its economic and social policies in the initial years of independence, by the 1960s it had adopted a host of welfare state measures while liberalizing social policies. At first, divorce, contraception, and abortion in the Free State were outlawed, while Church authorities kept an oversight on books, periodicals, and films for content. The Church also ran most of the social services, such as hospitals and schools.

By the 1970s, however, things had begun to change for the worse as divorce was legalized, homosexuality decriminalized, and abortion was permitted in limited cases. Propelling the cultural descent was the nation's acceptance of the "reforms" of the Second Vatican Anti-council (1962-1965) and the promulgation of the New Mass by Montini/Paul VI. It is thus not surprising that in the spring of 2015 this once ardent Catholic land would approve sodomite marriage.

The First Tragedy of James Connolly

Fr. Fahey incisively points out that James Connolly attempted to reconcile the principles of Karl Marx and socialism in general with those of the Catholic Church. This fundamental flaw was the "tragedy" of Connolly's life and eventually that of Ireland as it adopted variants of socialistic and Marxist ideas. While Connolly's "martyrdom" advanced the Irish independence movement, it did not lead to the re-establishment of the Kingship of Christ in a country once regarded as the "land of saints and scholars." Had Connolly applied his seemingly ceaseless energy and personal courage to that of Christ and His Church instead of trying to reconcile the hateful rants and illogical theories of the personally despicable and crazed Karl Marx, Ireland may be Catholic today as Fr. Fahey writes: "It is not a pity that James Connolly was led astray by Marx? If he had devoted his fine qualities to promoting the influence of the Mystical Body of Christ on society, in accordance with Papal Encyclicals, he would have done an amount of good." [p. 29]

While Connolly was not without some commendable human qualities, his inability to see the horrific consequences if Marxism was actually put into practice remained a tremendous defect in his thinking. Maybe, had he lived to see the political terror and economic ruination which occurred in Soviet Russia, he may have had a change of heart, but it seems unlikely.

While Connolly may be forgiven, somewhat, for his devotion to Marxism since he was executed before Communism had ever fully succeeded in practice, his biographers and supporters do not get such a pass. While the Bolsheviks had not seized power until after Connolly's death, there were numerous critics of Marxism and its variants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Not only had Marx's economic ideas been refuted, but his critics had accurately predicted what would come about if Marxism became a reality - totalitarianism, mass murder, economic ruination, and the eradication of religion. Yet, Connolly, appears to have been ignorant of this literature or ignored the ominous prognostications of Marx's opponents.

In his monograph on Connolly, Fr. Fahey rightly takes Connolly's apologists to task who praised the Irish revolutionary and his devotion to socialism, despite the known genocide, political repression, and economic destruction which it had inflicted on the Russian people and its Eastern European satellites. The praise for Connolly continues to this day by historians and chroniclers even after the fall of Communism and the opening of the Soviet's regime's records which has validated its critics.

While most of the Irish revolutionaries, which eventually won independence and established the Free State and later Irish Republic, were not rabid Marxists as Connolly, they nevertheless, adopted social democracy which proved over time to be just as lethal to Irish Catholicism as the Marxism that Connolly preached. Each year as the welfare state grew in size and scope it gradually took over the functions and duties that the Church had performed, which by the end of the 20th century had created a nearly complete secular society.

The Second Tragedy of James Connolly

The second tragedy of James Connolly's life derived from the first as Fr. Fahey writes: "Because of the first tragedy of Connolly's life, namely, his acceptance of the immoral, degrading animalism of Marx, James Connolly's mind was poisoned, so that he could neither grasp nor appreciate the struggle of the Mystical Body of Christ against both Individualism and Communism." [pp. 19-20] Connolly was blind to the Church's condemnation of Marx's doctrines and socialism in general. Nowhere could be found among Connolly or his fellow revolutionaries' writings sentiments such as St. Pius X's motto, "To Restore All Things in Christ" or any other thinkers who advocated a similar message. Connolly remained imbued with the philosophy of socialism for his entire life.

Connolly's "martyrdom" would be used by Leftists to argue for collectivization of the Irish economy and society as Fr. Fahey demonstrates:

. . . his writings can now be used to foment the class-war in the Irish countryside, with a view to imposing collective farming, in accordance with the immoral doctrines of Marx. His name can serve as a slogan to bring about another land-war and introduce the satanic hatred of the Supernatural Life amongst the native Irish, for the first time. [p. 20]

While all-out state planning never came to rural Ireland or the country's industries, the tenets of social democracy would dominate Irish politics throughout the 20th century, and its implementation would eventually corrupt the Irish people culturally and economically.

The Third Tragedy of James Connolly's Life

The third tragedy of James Connolly's life in Fr. Fahey's view was that he failed to realize that socialists' call for the collectivization of the economy was a step in the "preparation of Karl Marx's neo-messianic age, and that the workers of every country were simply pawns in that scheme." [p. 21] History would cruelly prove Marx's critics correct. "Worker control" was a ruse to eradicate private property which meant state control. Those who saw through the sham and questioned things were quickly rooted out and given over to the firing squad or sent to hard labor in the gulag.

Connolly, however, naively believed that the insurrection that he and his cohorts were planning was to become part of a world-wide revolt against the propertied Order which would usher in the Communist State: "In the event of victory hold on to your rifles, as those with whom we are fighting may stop before our goal is reached. We are out for economic as well as political liberty." [pp. 20-21] Of course, "economic liberty" for Marxists is the confiscation of property owners' wealth which first goes to the State and its ruling class and the little that is left is distributed to the masses.

Connolly anticipated that once private property was eradicated, "an era of peace and prosperity for the world in a union of free, classless, fully 'democratic' Communist Republics" would be established. [p. 21] Not emphasized by socialist utopians like Connolly is which vehicle is to produce this drastic social change. It would be the state, naturally, guided by the envious minds of Connolly and his type who would ruthlessly expropriate private property owners of their possessions.

James Connolly as "Historian"

Fr. Fahey ably elucidates how Connolly's adherence to Marxian historiography led to serious errors in the Irish revolutionary's interpretation of the past. Connolly wrongly contends that prior to Cromwell's brutal subjugation of 1649, much of the country's land ownership was communally held. Connolly adds that the Irish opposition to the English conquest in the succeeding years was not only to free it from foreign domination, but was a movement against private property and for the re-establishment of communal land tenure. Connolly hoped that Ireland's future proletariat would be emboldened by their ancestors' struggle in their own fight to secure the means of production from the capitalists:

As the Irish septs of the past. . . . measured their possessions or freedom by their loss or recovery of the collective ownership of their lands, so the Irish toilers from henceforth will base their fight for freedom, not upon the winning or losing of the right to talk in an Irish Parliament, but upon their progress towards the mastery of those factories, workshops, and farms upon which a people's bread and liberties depend. [pp. 17-18]

Few historians have interpreted the evidence as Connolly has. Fr. Fahey cites the authoritative work of Professor Eoin MacNeill's Phases of Irish History in regard to Irish land ownership during the era:

Another notion which accompanied the modern illusion of the 'clan system' is that of the communal holding of land by the tribe or clan. . . . We are seriously asked to believe that the lands of a tribe, meaning the population under a territorial chief or even under a king, was held in common by all. . . . The fact is that no such communal system existed on any scale approaching to the territorial. [p. 18]

James Connolly's Dreams and Russian Realities

The second half of Fr. Fahey's monograph deals with conditions in the Soviet Union and its nefarious international activities, which a number of Irish writers at the time and Connolly hagiographers willfully ignored. The priest explodes the idea of "worker control," the supposed equal distribution of wealth, and shows how the Soviet state was an exporter of world revolution.

In pointing out these fallacies, Fr. Fahey successfully critiques authors, who, at the time, were attempting to convince Ireland that Soviet-style socialism was the wave of the future. Nearly every statistic which could be cited and most eye-witness accounts confirmed that the socialistic paradise that Leftists writers often touted actually resembled a vast prison camp where the only group that benefited were the Communist Party overlords as Fr. Fahey explains:

The rulers of Russia are . . . the commissariats and sub-commissariats. . . . The power and privilege are under their control. . . . It is they who have curbed the masses and have instituted a social structure in which they are on top, not by virtue of private property rights in the instruments of production, but through their monopoly control of a State power which has fused with the economy. . . . [p. 27]


While the centennial of the Easter Rising has been celebrated as the first step in eventual Irish independence, it can be seen as the start of the decline of the Faith which has culminated in the country's approval of sodomite "marriage." Of course, the demise of Catholicism, although not recognized as such by most of today's commentators, would also be a cause for celebration among Irish secularists.

The tragedy of James Connolly's life would, in time, transcend upon all of Ireland. While the country never adopted the radical Marxism that Connolly called for, nevertheless, after obtaining its independence, the new nation adopted social democracy, and the Church would recede in all areas of social life. Eventually, even in the spiritual realm, the Irish Church would subscribe to Modernism, as it accepted the principles of the Vatican II Anti-council along with the New Mass and Sacraments, which followed in the Anti-council's destructive wake.

Fr. Fahey correctly understood that there can be no coexistence between Marxism and a social order based on the principles of Christ the King as so clearly expressed in Pope Pius XI's Quas Primas. Both social orders require allegiance to their sovereignty. While one system leads to political repression, economic collapse, and cultural decline, the other offers, for its adherents, a pathway to eternal life, if its precepts are followed. If only James Connolly and his fellow Easter Rising revolutionaries had pledged their lives to the cause of the Kingship of Christ, Ireland may be Catholic today.