War at Home
The Workers’ Republic, 26 June 1915.
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 because of their historical interest.
Transcription & HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
The war is still dragging its weary way along. On Saturday the Allies captured 3 yards, 2 feet and 7 inches, and on Sunday the Germans recaptured 3 yards, 1 foot and 11 inches. Thus it is easy to calculate how long it will take us to get to Berlin.
The war at home is also making great progress. Every Monday the landlords’ forces make a successful dash upon the entrenchments of the enemy in the tenement houses of Dublin, and come away laden with spoil, leaving behind them a motley array of rent books and notices to quit.
On the same day mounted forces of the Shilling-a-Week Brigade descend in relentless raids upon the homes of the poor, and poor women and children can be seen rushing in droves to the pawnbrokers for ammunition to satisfy the raiders.
In addition to these continual charges upon the entrenchments of the poor, large forces of the enemy are at all times busy in intercepting our convoys of food, and from their strategic positions in the bakery and provision shops are able by increasing prices to spread hunger and misery in the ranks of the workers. Up to the present all counter-attacks have failed to dislodge them, although serious food riots are reported from England.
The Transport Union has successfully led several attacks upon the enemy, and has captured a large number of War Bonuses and other military material. But not being properly supported by others, the attack was not carried farther into the enemy’s entrenchments, with the result that, although the Transport Union kept the position it won, the other portions of the forces of Labour are still struggling in an attempt to secure the necessary supplies.
In addition to this, great masses of the Workers, being unorganised and therefore undisciplined, are still lying helpless outside the barbed wire entanglements of the Good Pirates.
The workers in Cork are still lying around helpless waiting for some great leader to come along and save them. Generally in the past they sacrificed the leader after he had saved them, so in the present case there is no great desire on anybody’s part to do the saving act.
The dock labourers of Cork, like the dock labourers of Waterford and some other places, have not yet risen to a realisation of the dignity of their class. Their one thought is to get some one to help them, to do something for them, and then when they have reaped that benefit they look for the first opportunity to find fault with the organisation which secured the benefit for them.
They have not been able to realise that only in organisation can men win rights, and only by still more organisation can they keep those rights. They do not seem to grasp the fact that better homes and better life, like all the good things of the world, must be paid for, and that organisation is the price that the labourer must pay.
The men who in each place have stood by the Union are the men who keep up the standard of wages for all. They are the men in the gap of danger. Upon their existence and courage rests the hope of Labour. To them is due the fact that the various hosts of the capitalist enemy have been prevented from swallowing up again all the hard-won gains of the workers of Ireland.
Let them stand to their posts, stand undaunted and watching until the shameful deserters crawl back to the army and the fort they abandoned; until the workers throughout Ireland once more fall in behind the splendid hosts of the Dublin fighters in the battle for industrial freedom.
For industrial freedom; aye, and the battle for industrial freedom breeds true and sterling fighters for the freedom of the nation. Should the red tide of battle ever flow in Ireland the first of Ireland’s ranks will be those who knew how to build and organise for Labour; just as true as it is that they who will first desert Ireland for a foreign flag will be those who first deserted the flag of Labour.
In case the Germans should ever attempt to invade Ireland, it is just as well to inform them that our women workers in the shirtmaking trade are at present agitating for the Trade Board (Ireland) to fix a minimum rate of wages for female workers, other than learners, of 3½d. per hour, and that said Board has invited the employers to send in objections, which may be lodged within three months from May 20th, 1915.
The hoardings are covered with recruiting posters appealing to the ‘Women of Ireland’ to get their boys to enlist. We warn the Germans to beware of the deathless courage of the men who can look on undauntedly whilst these ‘Women of Ireland’ are piteously agitating for a wage of 3½d. per hour.
The sufferings of the Belgian children also rise to our eyes when we learn that the same Board proposes to increase the wages of female learners to 3s. 6d. per week of 50 hours.
Three months’ notice to oppose that is also given to the employers, and we are thus left in the dark as to the real rates paid at present. But when we see the rights of the poor employer to purchase Irish flesh and blood at a lower rate than 3s. 6d. per week being thus interfered with, we at once scent the evil hand of the alien enemy. Surely nobody but a German spy would thus strike such a fell blow at our Irish industries.
Where is the Irish employer who would not die in defence of the glorious empire which allows him to make a profit out of the flesh and blood (and tears) of helpless Irish womanhood and girlhood?
Where is he? Why, he is sitting snugly in his office, smoking a cigar, and talking of conscription to force the husbands, fathers and brothers of his female slaves to go out and fight for him!
I take this cutting from the pages of our bright contemporary, the British Seafaring Journal:
“We are told that in the United Kingdom there are close upon 17 million acres of waste land. I should have to tax my memory to recall a single acre of what might be fairly termed ‘waste land’ in all the many visits I have paid to different parts of Germany. Also with regard to waste of human material the results visible to the naked eye cannot fail to strike the traveller. It is true that statistics disclose an ominously rising average of crime, but the wastrel, the do-nothing, the loafer, those with whose presence we are pestered at home, are rarely to be met with in Germany.
If the same could be said of Ireland what a rich country this could be made! For in Ireland the waste land and the waste human material alike exist in riotous profusion. A wise statesman, nay, a benefactor to the race would be he who could bring those two together, that united they might by their co-operation enrich our common country. But in Ireland all the legislative and administrative forces seem to aim at increasing the quantity of both kinds of waste.
Think of it: No waste land, no waste human material in Germany; much waste land, much waste human material in Ireland. What is the moral, the lesson?  But I am getting too dangerously near to the Defence of the Realm Act. 
The land of Ireland is well intersected with canals which in other countries provide the very cheapest kind of carriage for goods, but the railway companies of Ireland have bought up the canals to prevent them serving the Irish public. Thus the public lose the facilities which the canals would give, and the railways, secure in their monopoly, settle down into a state of slovenly inefficiency which makes them a national scandal. Irish railway companies make no attempt to develop Irish industry, or to develop Irish districts. Rather, they seem to regard themselves as alien enemies, holding a position over a conquered people which enables them to compel that people to go on for ever paying a War Indemnity for the mere right to live.
Slovenly in their methods, contemptuous in their dealings with the general public, tyrannical and sweating in their treatment of their workers, the Irish railway companies make us long for the day when an Irish State will assume, in the interest of Ireland, the power and ownership they have exploited so mercilessly for mean and sordid ends.
1. Connolly’s efforts to combat Britain’s hawking of atrocity stories have sometimes been misinterpreted as a ‘pro-German’ attitude. The best answer to this is the famous streamer which hung outside his headquarters at Liberty Hall: “We serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland.”
2. The Defence of the Realm Act, better known as ‘Dora’, was used during the last war, not only to safeguard military interests, but also to curtail political and Trade Union rights. In the present war it has been revived in its main essentials under the name of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act.
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Last updated on 14.8.2003