America and Europe
Irish Worker, 22 August 1914.
From P.J. Musgrove (ed.), James Connolly: A Socialist and War (1914-1916), London 1941, a collection of Connolly’s anti-war articles published on behalf of the Communist Party of Great Britain shortly before the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
The notes from this edition are included here because of their historical interest.
Transcription & HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton, August 2007.
Certain English Press agencies and their Irish imitators have during the past fortnight been hard at work assuring the reading public that in the United States public opinion is practically unanimous on the side of Great Britain and her allies.  It would be as well for the readers of the Irish Worker to take that statement with the proverbial grain of salt and bucket of sea-water. It is as true probably as the currently accepted English yarn that the United States is a great Anglo-Saxon nation – a yarn that is blatantly asserted by all English politicians and journalists and greedily swallowed by most working people in England despite the fact that ten minutes’ calm reflection upon the history of immigration into America would show that the Anglo-Saxon in that country represents but a very small drop in a very big ocean of races. Somewhat similar reflection upon facts will serve to dispel the idea of the solid American sentiment for England. The present writer does not know from personal knowledge the present state of public opinion in the States, but he does know from personal knowledge the various elements of which the population of the States is composed, and he knows their usual affiliation and political leanings. And from such knowledge it is not hard to guess at the state of public sentiment upon this war.
Next to the native-born Americans, who although derived from all races are in all things loyal first to American interests and American ideas, the two greatest elements in America are the Irish and the Germans. Of the German-American population, then, it may be quite safe to say that their sentiments are most likely with the Fatherland, even although they may be entirely opposed to the German Government. The German Press is the most powerful Press in America not printed in the English language. It is read not only by all German immigrants and their children, but as the German language is a sort of lingua franca or free common language to Hungarians, Poles, Lithuanians, Czechs, Slavs and Jews, it is read by all those races and nationalities likewise. One may be sure that the German journalists have kept well to the front the fact that the German Government offered to concede all that the British Government had asked for in the matter of Belgium, and had even asked the British Government to name its own terms of neutrality, and that the British Foreign Minister concealed this fact from the Parliament when speaking before the declaration of war. One may be sure that such a typical act of British double-dealing has not been allowed to escape the attention of the readers of the German-American Press. Nor yet is it likely that the non-German elements of the foreign-speaking population in America are any more in favour of the Allies than the Germans. Belgians and French are numerically insignificant in that country in proportion to the North and South Europeans.
The Hungarians are not likely either from present national reasons, from Socialistic sympathies, or from their past traditions to favour any policy likely to increase the favour of their Russian neighbours in Europe – the Russians whose armies in 1848 laid Hungary in ruins in order to drive the Hungarian revolutionists back under the heel of Austria; the Russians whose brutal despotism is the perpetual menace of every freedom-aspiring community from the Black Sea to the Baltic. The Finns, most enlightened and most progressive of all the races within or bordering upon that vast stretch of territory, may well be trusted to work and pray for the humiliation of the Russian tyrant whose hand is even now upon their throat, whose Cossacks were but yesterday trampling into the dust their laws, their language, their liberties, their very existence as a separate people, and so trampling despite all treaties to the contrary. The people of the Baltic provinces were but the other day harried with fire and sword by the Russian allies of the British Lion. They have swarmed into America to escape the fury; can they be wishing for the success of the allies of Russia? Not the most numerically important, but surely one of the most influential of the races represented in America are the Jews. Particularly is this true of the eastern states, and in the commercial and journalistic world. I observe that in one of the recent proclamations the Russian Czar speaks of his “beloved Jews” in calling them to the army. English newspapers speak with tender admiration of such Imperial manifestos; honest workers can only feel sickened by the thought of this imperial bully whose passion it is to torture, imprison and slaughter in times of peace those to whom he appeals with snivelling panic in times of war.
Conscientious and impartial authorities have proven from official documents that the pogroms or race riots for which Russia has been notorious, and of which the Jews are the victims, have almost always been the work of Government agents, and have always been carried out with Government connivance. In these pogroms the Jewish districts were given up to pillage and outrage by mobs of armed men, whilst the police looked calmly on. Shops and houses were burned after being looted, women and children were ravished, babies and old men and women were thrown from windows to their death in the streets, and hell was let loose generally upon the defenceless people. After long months some few nobodies were occasionally arrested and sentenced for these crimes, only to be set free again by pardon signed by the Czar’s own hand. And now this same Czar addressing the unfortunate survivors calls them his “beloved Jews”.
Verily there must be laughter in hell these days.
Surely the Jews are not unanimously wishing for the success of the British armies which are fighting to increase the power of this monster over Europe.
And the Poles; is it possible that they, like the fool Irish, will rush out to fight for their tyrant, for the tyrant whose prisons are full of their compatriots? Or that the Poles in America are praying for the success of the Russian Czar?
Certainly the Press tells us with tears of joy dropping from their printing machines that the manifesto to the Poles promises complete autonomy to Poland, and that in view of that promise the Poles will be radiantly joyous with enthusiasm for the Czar. Ah, promises! How easily promises fall from the lips of tyrants! Remember the words of Whitman, the ‘good grey poet’ of America, when writing on the promises of European Royalty to the revolutionists of 1848.
“For many a promise made by Royal lips, and broken,
And laughed at in the breaking.”
The Poles know, the Revolutionists of the world know, if others have forgotten, that in his manifesto of October, 1905, this same Czar guaranteed in his own words that the population of all Russia and Poland was to be
“given the inviolable foundation of civil rights, based on the actual inviolability of the person, and freedom of belief, of speech, of organisation, and meeting,”
and that as soon as his Government had crushed the revolution “those who tried to realise these principles were treated as rebels guilty of high treason,” as Prince Kropotkin truly remarks.
One small item will illustrate the fidelity of the Czar to his own royal promises. For trying to act up to the principles laid down by the Czar as above there were exiled to Siberia by administrative order – that is to say without trial – in 1908 no less a number of political prisoners than 74,000. These are the figures as supplied by the Department of Police to the Russian Duma upon the request of that body for exact information. We are scarcely likely to hear of the subjects of the Czar who have escaped to America swelling the chorus of prayers for the success of Russia and her ally, Great Britain.
Next to the Germans the largest and most respected non-English speaking element in the States are the Scandinavians, Danes, Norwegians and Swedes. The largest in numbers are the Swedes, who indeed rather dominate the others. The attitude of the Swedes towards the war and their prayers for the victor can easily be judged if we remember the question that formed the issue upon which the last general election in Sweden was fought. That issue was the Government demand for more soldiers, more ships, and more fortresses to protect Sweden against Russia.
It was freely declared that the anxiety of the Russian Czar to wrest her liberties from Finland and to Russianise her armies was a mere preliminary to open the way for a conquest of Sweden. Hence Sweden and all the Scandinavian countries and all their friends abroad feel that the present campaign of the Triple Alliance, France, England and Russia, is a campaign to make the Russian despot the overlord and master of all the free countries of Northern Europe, as the struggling peoples of Southern Europe feel that the same campaign is designed to place the greatest enemies of social and political freedom in an impregnable position of military strength.
It is felt, in short, that England is sacrificing the hopes of civilisation in Europe in order to safeguard her commercial prestige and destroy a successful commercial rival; just as it is felt that the capitalist class in France in lending money to the Russian Czar during the Revolution of 1905 struck down the hopes of Freedom in Russia, and in order to secure the dividends upon that unholy loan are now needlessly plunging their country into war-betraying a republic in order to support an autocracy to which they have lent money.
These are the considerations of which the Irish Press is for the most part laughably ignorant, and of which they suppress all mention when they do know, but which are perfectly well known to the American public.
Do not let us therefore worry over the carefully manufactured lies of the news agencies as to the attitude of the great American public. For the native-born Americans, suffice to say that to aid their judgment they have a rooted inherited distrust of England, and a dislike of Russia born of broad human sympathies and love of liberty.
Finally, as a word of warning this week. Do not let anyone play upon your sympathies by denunciation of the German military bullies. German military bullies, like all tyrannies among civilised people, need fear nothing so much as native (German) democracy. Attacks from outside only strengthen tyrants within a nation. If we had to choose between strengthening the German bully or the Russian autocrat the wise choice would be on the side of the German. For the German people are a highly civilised people, responsive to every progressive influence, and, rapidly forging weapons for their own emancipation from native tyranny, whereas the Russian Empire stretches away into the depths of Asia, and relies on an army largely recruited from amongst many millions of barbarians who have not yet felt the first softening influence of civilisation. German thought is abreast of the best in the world; German influences have shaped for good the hopes of the world, but the thought and the hopes of the best in Russia were but the other day drowned in blood by Russia’s worst.
To help Britain is to help Russia to the dominance of Europe, to help the barbarian to crush the scientist. That is the reflection of the wise revolutionist of to-day.
Meanwhile the Orange enemy of Irish freedom wisely stays at home and conserves his forces, and the Irish Nationalist is encouraged by his leaders to rush abroad and shed his blood in a quarrel not his own, the simplest elements of which he does not understand.
1. This propaganda of 1914 is significant when we consider the present press campaign boosting the “moral support” and “identity of interests” between Britain and the USA The Star, October 10th, 1940, declared in headlines that “US Has One Foot in the War.” The voices of the millions of US citizens who are crying for peace are not allowed to reach us through the capitalist Press. The Daily Worker (October 11th, 1940) was the only paper to publish in full the appeal of Earl Browder, Communist Presidential Candidate, for a peace policy based upon friendship with China and the USSR.
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