From a Labour Day Speech in Dublin
Workers’ Republic, 5 June 1915.
Tehe last part of this speech is included in the collection: Ireland Upon the Dissecting Table, Cork Workers’ Club 1975.
Transcription & HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Mr. James Connolly said that, despite the doubts, the fears, and the hints of some people, we had this year a magnificent turn out. He found some difficulty in speaking to them that day. To make himself heard he would require to have the lungs of a bull, and to steer clear of the Defence of the Realm Act required the subtlety of a lawyer, so they would understand his position. We were living in strange and moving times. The powers that be had seized upon Seán McDermott, Seán Milroy and Francis Sheehy-Skeffington for saying what had already been said a thousand times. He, at least, had no desire to go to gaol. They had powers that they used to think were oppressive and tyrannical fighting for liberty and the freedom of small nations. “And when I”, continued Mr. Connolly, “who have been all my life fighting, in my own way, for these same objects, see such a great change come to pass why should I want to go to prison”? (Laughter and applause). He was therefore going to give them good advice. He advised them all to join the army (Cries of “what army”? “Is it the Citizen Army”?) “Well, I won’t insult your intelligence by saying which army, but if I am charged for anything I may say here to-day I will call you all as witnesses (if I am allowed) to prove that I advised you all to join the army” (Laughter and applause). His advice then was, “join the army”. “fight for freedom”, “defend yourselves”. He had spent a good deal of his life in decrying force as between man and man, but if force was to be the sole arbiter, then let those who have right on their side gather all the force they can to help them. His complaint with the resolutions was that they did not go far enough. They asked the Government to rebuild the slums, but there was more spent every day on the continent than would rebuild all Ireland. All Governments were doing this, and would continue doing it until the workers took the world into their own hands, and ran it for the benefit of those who alone did the world’s work – the workers. Sir Thomas More had well expressed the position when he wrote “I can see nothing in the Governments of the world but a conspiracy of the rich for the purpose of robbing the poor”. He was beheaded, and was it any wonder that they cut off a head that gave utterance to so much wisdom? Peace was a virtue they were told, and for forty years the Home Rule party had been preaching peace, and had got very little for their pains. On the other hand Sir Edward Carson had preached force for a few short months, and had got all he demanded; and after Carson had poured contempt on the law, and had on a hundred platforms urged defiance of the law, he was now Attorney-General, having supreme charge of the enforcement of the law (laughter). I am a law-abiding citizen (laughter). I believe in the law – when it’s big enough (laughter). Why had not the Government squelched Carson as they had always been prepared to squelch the labour men? As the result of all this law-breaking Carson was now in the Cabinet, and Home Rule was indefinitely shelved. If they turned to the ranks of labour they would see the only class that never sold Ireland (loud applause). When you stand for labour you stand for Ireland. Join your union and help in the fight to win back your own land for labour. Join in the fight for a free and regenerated Ireland, which will emancipate not alone yourselves but your children and your children’s children (loud applause).
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Last updated on 14.8.2003