The James Connolly Easter Rising Tour 2016
Yvonne and I returned to Bern February 1st after playing 12 concerts and making seven radio appearances in Northern California. The tour was organized by our publisher, PM Press. We were greeted warmly, throughout, by small but attentive audiences, all of whom showed great interest in our presentation of James Connolly’s songs and ideas. In the absence of anything being organized by Irish, Labor, political or cultural groups, these concerts and radio appearances were crucial to raising the issue of the Easter Rising in this 100th anniversary year. Indeed, they appear to be the only ones to do so. We did encounter the most recent issue of the Irish Herald (published in San Francisco) with a lead story on the commemorations of the Easter Rising to take place in Ireland but, aside from this story, we could find no events planned anywhere in the Bay Area. The Annual Banquet of the Irish Literary and Historical Society of San Francisco, March 13th, will celebrate the Proclamation of the Irish Republic as a literary and political document, historian Bob Tracy to present on the subject. But this is the only acknowledgement we’ve been able to discover bearing any connection to the historic events surrounding that Proclamation and it’s first presentation on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin by one of its authors, Patrick Pearse.
It would appear that connections between San Francisco’s own history and those of Labor, Ireland, national liberation and socialist revolution, have been effectively buried. The juggernaut of Technocracy and political reaction is determined to hide all but the faintest memory of a moment of immortal heroism and the role it played in making San Francisco, for much of the last century, a center of revolutionary politics and art. We must respond by recalling those words of Patrick Pearse at the graveside of Fenian leader, O’Donovan Rossa: “They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! – they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”
To this must be added that beacon of revolutionary insight, originating with Camille Desmoulins and often quoted by James Connolly: “The great appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!”