[Marxism] C.L.R. James anecdote re Nora Connolly O'Brien

Philip Ferguson philipferguson8 at gmail.com
Fri Jan 15 17:11:28 MST 2016

A mate of mine in Belfast sent me the following anecdote - CLR James
talking about Irish revolutionary Nora Connolly O'Brien (Connolly's eldest
daughter and a participant in the events of the 1916 rebellion, war for
independence and civil war; during part of the civil war she was acting
paymaster-general of the IRA.  She was friendly with the Trotskyists and
exchanged some mail with Trotsky himself.)

"I met Nora Connolly O'Brien. She came to London for the ILP. I had invited
her. I remember that woman, because in those days the British Trotskyite
revolutionaries were no more than left wing Labour. So I went to meet her
and invited her to come over here and speak, and she did. Coming from the
railway station we crossed the river by Parliament, and she said, 'You
should have done away with that years ago, it is easy from the river'. So I
said 'Yes, we are revolutionaries, but bombing the Houses of Parliament is
useless.' (She responded) 'You're talking of something that you know
nothing about!' She instinctively saw the revolutionary possibilities.
'From this side of the river you could bomb the Houses of Parliament and
get away with it.'

"When Anna Grimshaw later asked James about his visit (to Ireland) he 'said
that he didn't really understand what it meant to be revolutionary until he
went to Ireland. The English 'revolutionaries' were of a very different
kind than the Irish revolutionaries who really understood armed struggle
and revolutionary conflict'."

>From Christian Hogsbjorg's book on CLR James in Imperial Britain.


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