As a member of the Irish Confederation during the Potato Famine, Reilly together with John Mitchel and James Fintan Lalor advocated the refusal to pay rents, retention of crops by small tenant farmers and labourers to feed their own families, and the breaking-up of bridges and tearing-up of railway lines to prevent the removal of food from the country.
James Connolly claims that as the editor of the Protective Union labour rights newspaper for the printers of Boston, Devin Reilly was a pioneer of American labour journalism and that Horace Greeley believed of his series of articles in the American Review on the European situation "that if collected and published as a book, they would create a revolution in Europe".
"We are not Communists - we abhor communism for the same reason we abhor poor-law systems, and systems founded on the absolute sovereignty of wealth. Communism destroys the independence and dignity of labour, makes the workingman a State pauper and takes his manhood from him. But, communism or no communism, these 70,000 workmen had a clear right to existence - they had the best right to existence of any men in France, and if they could have asserted their right by force of arms they would have been fully justified. The social system in which a man willing to work is compelled to starve, is a blasphemy, an anarchy, and no system. For the present these victims of monarchic rule, disowned by the republic, are conquered; 10,000 are slain, 20,000 perhaps doomed to the Marquesas. But for all that the rights of labour are not conquered, and will not and cannot be conquered. Again and again the labourer will rise up against the idler - the workingmen will meet this bourgeoisie, and grapple and war with them till their equality is established, not in word, but in fact".
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