Celebrating the life of James Connolly in Troy, New York

Irish Republican and revolutionary socialist James Connolly will be celebrated in Troy, New York, on May 14, near the 100th anniversary of his execution. The 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising against British rule has been commemorated worldwide, as the partial independence of the Irish republic today traces its origins to the events of 1916. Connolly played a key political and military command role in the heroic-but ultimately unsuccessful-attempt to trigger a mass uprising of the Irish people to win both independence and socialism.

Few are aware that Connolly lived in the United States for several years during the early 1900s, as he worked to organize the masses of Irish immigrant workers who had fled the misery and poverty of British-ruled Ireland only to find the same here in the U.S. He also worked organizing Italians, and learned Italian to do it, despite having left school at age 11 to work. Connolly lived from 1903 to 1905 in the then thriving manufacturing city of Troy, New York, and he later organized in New Jersey before his return to Ireland.

Connolly is remembered for his special ability to weave the threads of revolutionary socialism, trades unionism and Irish national liberation. Connolly’s years in the U.S. were spent as a leader of both the Industrial Workers of the World union and the Socialist Labor Party, then the dominant socialist organization in the United States.

Few at the time of the crushed 1916 Irish Rising would have thought it possible that just 18 months later the Bolshevik revolution would oust the Czar in Russia, in a similar reaction to the holocaust of World War I. The experiences of Connolly in Ireland, Lenin in Russia, and Eugene Debs here in the U.S. were all shaped by the war and oppression that affected working people as a result of the imperialist rivalries of the time.

The 1916 events led by Connolly have been well researched and publicized, most recently in the UE News and Peoplesworld.org by Peter Gilmore.

The May 14th commemoration will feature music, a brief program, and the unveiling of a permanent marker at one of the two home sites where Connolly lived while in Troy. The ceremony will begin at 1 pm, and all are requested to gather at 447 10th St., Troy, New York. See the Facebook page, “Commemorating James Connolly in Troy”, established and regularly updated by organizers of the event. For those in Troy on Friday, May 13 there will be an inspiring musical performance by the James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band at the Oakwood Community Center, 313 10th Street in Troy.

In the run up to the Connolly events, The Record, the major commercial newspaper in Troy, recently covered the coming events in an article which may be found here.

The article features a photo of yet another remarkable aspect of the Connolly legacy in Troy-the massive monument to Connolly in Riverfront Park. Likely one of the few-if not the only-monument to commemorate a revolutionary socialist in the U.S., the Connolly bust in Riverfront Park was placed there in 1986.

Photo: James Connolly Monument, Troy, New York. Irish Labor Leader, Wobbly, IWW, Irish Transport Union, (1868-1916), “Son of Troy.” upstete-ny-iww.org.