The Life and Times of James Connolly,
by C. Desmond Greaves:
Laurence & Wishart. 35s.
mr. greaves has given us one of the books which was waiting to be written about James Connolly and has made a fine, scholarly job of it. Those who have a picture of Communist scholarship as partisan, falsifying, careless of fact could not do better than read Mr. Greaves. Here is enormous and scrupulous care over every detail of fact. We need no longer to puzzle over the dates or the places of Connolly’s different activities. All the evidence has now been set out for us, all the conclusions are fairly drawn. Except the political ones. The field for a political biography of Connolly remains open and the need is urgent. For Mr. Greaves’book is a monument of bourgeois objectivism. On the one side there are the facts; on the other there are the political judgments. And this separation of factual material from political judgment means that in these pages Connolly is a dead man. The organic development of his thought is obliterated. His life is a mere chronicle of activity.
If Mr. Greaves’book had only brought Connolly to life it would have shown up all those who prefer him dead. The politicians of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the Irish Republic, for example. They would like to forget what they dare not teach their own school-children, that the greatest founder of the Republic was a Marxist. But the majority of present-day Marxists are not that fond of Connolly either. For he was a syndicalist and a democrat. There has never been a revolutionary further away from elitism. To try to judge Connolly by the standards of Leninism, as Mr. Greaves does, is to miss the point, both by being unhistorical, and thus wronging Lenin as well as Connolly, and also by not seeing that Connolly’s teaching provides some of the material for a critique of Leninism.