Workers’ Republic, 20 August 1898.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.
The notes, which are © 1997 Pluto Press, have not been included.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
The statement made by one of our contributors in last week’s issue that the action of the ’98 Executive in fixing the date for the Wolfe Tone Demonstration on 15th August, a generally recognised Catholic festival, would be fraught with evil consequences, has already been justified.
The return of the Belfast contingent from Dublin to the former city was made the occasion of a sectarian outburst in the streets, in the course of which Protestant and Catholic belaboured each other in the most beautiful manner, in a truly Christian spirit.
And proved their doctrine orthodox,
By Apostolic blows and knocks.
He who could hit the hardest felt himself master of the soundest theology, and he whose blows did not flatten out his opponents’ skull was, no doubt, afflicted by conscientious scruples as to his own orthodoxy.
And when Catholic and Protestant workmen absented themselves from work next morning in order to procure the needed sticking-plaster for their craniums, Catholic and Protestant employers stopped their wages accordingly with the most beautiful impartiality.
Commend me to an employer of labour for strict impartiality in his dealings between workmen of different creeds. If the Catholic employer can make more profit out of a Protestant workman than out of a Catholic, he does not allow religious scruples to bind him. Oh, no!
He straightaway discharges his co-religionist and engages the man who yields him the greatest plunder. And the Protestant employer is equally fair-minded (sic) in his dealings with the Protestant worker.
Harland and Wolff, Belfast, are great Protestants and Unionists, so are their workmen. But in the course of an industrial dispute in the shipbuilding trade a few years ago, the Protestant employer locked out the Protestant workmen and starved or attempted to starve them into subjection.
Mr Alderman Meade and the Master Builders’ Association on the one hand and the building trades on the other point the moral on the Catholic side for Dublin readers, who have not forgotten the building trade dispute of ’96.
To the employing class, as a whole, we might indeed apply the terms employed by John Mitchel to the Anglo-Saxon section of them. Listen –
They worship money, they pray to no other god but money, they would buy and sell the Holy Ghost for money, and they believe the whole world is created, sustained, and governed, and can only be saved by the one true, immutable and almighty £ s d.
Wherefore, oh, my Belfast Brethren, should you make your city a scandal to Europe by insensate fights over religious dogmas, while as you spill each other’s boozy blood throughout the streets, the ruling class in industry and politics calmly seat themselves firmer upon your backs and dive their hands deeper into your pockets.
Consider, do our masters fight over religion when their pockets are involved? No. The only union of Home Ruler and Unionist we have had in the last generation, viz, that over the Financial Relations Question, was on a question not of principle, but of purse.
Not the purse of the people. Indeed with most of the working class a purse would be a mere superfluity, like breeches to a highlandman, or a conscience to a politician. They would not have any use for it, or know what to do with it.
For the Financial Relations Question does not concern the workers in town or country. Our wages as workers are fixed, roughly speaking, by our competition for employment. If there are many unemployed, our wages will be low; if there are few idle, our wages may be high; but whether our masters pay heavy direct taxation or none at all, does not affect our wages.
Ditto with the tenants in the country districts. Their rents are fixed by the Land Court in proportion, not to the value of the land, but in proportion to their ability to pay. In estimating that ability, taxes are taken into consideration as well as prices of agricultural produce.
If, not merely Ireland’s (?) over-taxation, but all taxes in Ireland were abolished tomorrow, the Land Court would see in that fact a reason why the tenant, his expenses being lower, could pay a higher rent, and would fix it accordingly.
The Financial Relations agitation is merely a fight between Irish capitalists and landlords, and English capitalists and landlords. The working people can not hope for anything good as a result of the struggle, except, perhaps, that it might end like the famous struggle between the Kilkenny cats – in the mutual destruction of both parties.
The only Financial Relation with which the working class are concerned generally hangs out three golden balls.
Oh, my prophetic soul, my uncle.
The Commemoration Banquet at the Mansion House produced some curious results. I do not know whether it was due to the liquor or the excitement, or both combined, but certain it is that the speakers seemed to mix up their opinions and sentiments in the most wonderful manner.
Our Lord Mayor was especially felicitous (?) in his remarks.
“He was himself,” he assured the audience, “descended from people who had to fly from their peasant home to the mountains to escape persecution.” He forgot to point out the moral, and so we can only guess at it. Perhaps he meant that in view of that fact he had made up his mind that he, at least, did not intend to be forced to fly to the mountains if acting the flunkey would keep him at home.
Therefore he hastened to make the astounding declaration – astounding in such a time and place – that “he claimed that Irishmen could best govern themselves, and could do it best under English Law”.
Lord Mayor Tallon won’t fly to the mountains if he knows it. The Mansion House is good enough for him. The mountains can wait.
Poor Wolfe Tone. Lived, fought, and suffered for Ireland in order that a purse-proud, inflated windbag should exploit your memory to his own aggrandisement.
Lord Mayor Tallon is also reported to have said that “after many years of residence in Dublin he was as good an Irishman as when he entered it.” What did this mean?
Are we to understand that he considers the people of Dublin so bad a lot that he should be complimented for his tenacity in sticking to his patriotism in their company?
If not what does he mean? Perhaps that, however, is not a fair question. Perhaps the wine was good. Perhaps the capacity of our Lord Mayor for assimilating liquors is no greater than his capacity for talking sense.
Which is saying a great deal.
Mr John O’Leary labours under the disadvantage of age, and, consequently, it is not safe to accept as literally correct any newspaper report of his speech. So I can only hope that his utterances at the banquet, as reported, were not his exact sentiments.
He is reported to have said, “He infinitely preferred that Ireland should be under her own laws, and not English laws,” which was of course right enough. So say all of us.
But he went on, “He did not mind whether it was a republic, an absolute monarchy, or a limited monarchy.” According to this theory, if the Queen of England were to come to Dublin and get crowned Queen of Ireland the aspirations of Irish Nationalists would be realized.
Some of our theoretical revolutionists of the political type are fond of building great hopes on the possibility of an alliance between France and Russia against England. If this did happen and Russian troops landed in Ireland, kicked England out and then crowned the Czar absolute monarch of Ireland, according to Mr O’Leary’s theory we would be free.
But perhaps I will be told this is not a fair assumption, because the Czar would not then rule by the free consent of the Irish people, but by the power of his bayonets. But does an absolute monarch ever rule solely by the consent of his people? Does he not always depend upon his bayonets?
Do our friends only object to tyranny when it is English? Would they hug their chains if they were guaranteed of Irish manufacture?
But if our friends think only of native Irish Kings will they please tell us where to get them.
Will the gentle and courtier-like Tim Healy do?
How would this read in our newspapers. “His Royal Highness Timothy I, King of All Ireland, held a levee at Dublin Castle to-day. Lords Harrington, Dillon and Redmond attended as pages-in waiting. Amongst others present we noticed T.P. O’Connor, Esq, who as bearer of the royal snuff-box was the object of considerable admiration.”
This you will say, dear reader, is only fooling. It is. But so is the talk of those people who talk of revolting against British rule and refuse to recognise the fact that our way to freedom can only be hewn by the strong hand of labour, and that labour revolts against oppression of all kinds, not merely against the peculiarly British brand.
The whole edifice of modern society to-day is built upon the oppression and plunder of labour. The Sovereign on her throne, the nobleman in his palace, the capitalist in his mansion, the judge on the bench, and the lawyer at the bar are all pensioners on the labour of the workers, are all seated like Sinbad’s Old Man of the Sea astride the back of the worker riding him to social death.
The politics of the master class are only the quarrels of thieves over the division of the spoil. The politics of the working class are the organised efforts of the victims conscious of the thieving, to put an end to the system of society which makes it possible.
The mixed character of all speeches in connection with the ’98 movement, at the banquet and elsewhere, proves conclusively that our middle-class leaders are afraid to trust democracy. In the midst of their most fervent vituperations against the British Government, there rises up before their mind’s eye the spectacle of the Irish working people demanding Freedom for their class from the economic slavery of to-day.
And struck with affright the middle-class politician buttons up his trousers pocket, and shoving his hand deep into the pockets of his working class compatriots, cries out as his fingers close upon the plunder: “No class questions in Irish politics.”
So our middle-class become Home Rulers, secretly or openly leaning to the British Constitution.
What is the difference between the Unionist and the Home Ruler? Answer: Starting from the postulate that we accept Mitchel’s definition of the British Empire, as “a pirate institution robbing and plundering upon the public highway” we must conclude that the Unionists wish to keep the Irish people as subjects of the British Empire, the Home Ruler desires to raise them to the dignity of accomplices.
And the Socialist Republican wishes to kick the whole Empire and all its fraudulent institutions into the outer darkness.
And once it is effectually elevated from off the face of this planet it has so long cursed by its presence, whether it goes to join the angels above or the politicians below is no concern of
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Last updated on 11.8.2003