Our demands most moderate are –
We only want the earth!
The name Jim Fitzpatrick might strike some in New England, a historic home of Irish Americans, as slightly common and nothing special. However, the Irish artist, now at work promoting works related to the centennial celebration of the 1916 Easter Rising that began the Irish revolution against British imperialism at the height of World War I, will be familiar to the many people who have seen his artwork across the globe. Consider this famous screen print of his:
Now Fitzpatrick has turned his efforts to another revolutionary hero. James Connolly, the revolutionary socialist leader of the 1916 Easter rebellion, and his archive of writings have found a new lease on life in the past decade due to the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy and austerity brought on by the European Union’s dictatorship of capital. Fitzpatrick has memorialized he and his comrades in a recent series of prints that are available in three free forms on his website now as part of the Reclaim 1916 organization.
Connolly’s work is a fascinating counterfactual to the fate of both the Western-aligned Irish state and the Leninist project in the last century. His views on workplace democracy as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and a union leader were far to the Left of the European Social Democrats who sided with imperialism during the war and whose Democratic Socialist successors have failed to successfully harness markets to serve people. But his willingness to allow a space for religion as a self-proclaimed Catholic presents an intriguing image of what might have been for the Communist project. He wrote in one exchange with priests:
The firm distinction in the minds of Irish Catholics between the duties of the Holy See and the rights of the individual Catholics has been a necessary and saving element in keeping Ireland Catholic, and he, by whatever name he calls himself or to whatever order he belongs, who would seek to destroy that distinction or make acquiescence in the political obligations of the Papacy a cardinal article of Catholic faith is an enemy of the faith and liberties of our people.
Lenin and Trotsky were both quite taken with the Easter Rebellion and wrote high praises of it. In fact, there is an urban legend of Lenin speaking English with an Irish accent!
Fitzpatrick was kind enough to sit for an interview with me where we talked about the interconnected Irish artistic and political stages. The discussion is fascinating to consider especially in terms of how Irish Americans can and should be able to think about faith and politics. Fitzpatrick is adamant about his Roman Catholicism as a pro-choice ally of LGBTQQI people, something that may prove fascinating and redemptive to readers who feel torn between politics and faith this election year.