The Party versus the People
From Workers’ Republic, September 4, 1915.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
Proofread by Chris Clayton, August 2007.
On Monday, August 30th, the Freeman’s Journal devoted a long leading article to telling of the many changes for the better that have been wrought in Ireland for the past forty years. The political changes, the changes in the laws governing the owning and occupying of land, the various ameliorations of the condition of the poor in the country districts, the increase of public control in affairs of local government – all these things were gone into with a wealth of detail and at the same time with a florid style and boastfulness of description that the mere parliamentarian has made us all familiar with to the point of nausea. And why are we treated to this story? We are treated to this story in an attempt to silence the critics of the Home Rule Party by representing that all the great and beneficent changes mentioned in the Freeman are due to the activities of that Party, and that therefore the critics of the Party are foolish and ignorant, or are basely ungrateful.
Readers of the Freeman’s Journal if they can be deceived by such rubbish are surely unfit to be entrusted with the franchise, or, indeed, with any power over the destinies of their country. The benefits that have been gained, and some of them are undoubted, have been gained by the heroic fighting and sacrifices of the Irish people, and a political party was only one, and not the most important one, of the many weapons forged and used by the Irish people during that fighting, and as a result of their sacrifices. Landlordism in its worst phases was not abolished, the right of a tenant to security in his tenure was not secured, the purchase of proprietary rights by the tenantry was not accomplished by the mere presence of eighty-five spouters in the British House of Commons. On the contrary these vain-glorious gentlemen were only able to secure a hearing by virtue of the fact that the Land League by its fighting in Ireland had brought this country into civil war, and had so utterly destroyed the value of Irish landed property that not a moneylender in Europe would then loan money upon its security. The Home Rule Party were merely the ambassadors at a Foreign Court – ambassadors who remained powerless until the popular armies in Ireland had struck down Landlordism in spite of evictions, battering rams, imprisonment and death. The extent of our indebtedness to the Home Rule Party can be gauged by measuring the relative achievements of the people who fought and won the fight on the land question – a fight fought and won outside Parliament – and the people who fought and lost the battle of Home Rule – a purely parliamentary battle.
The people met all the combined forces of landlordism and the British Crown, broke up the social system they had imposed upon the agricultural population, and tore a measure of social freedom and economic security from their reluctant grasp. The Irish parliamentarians met the British politicians on their own chosen field of battle – and lost every move of the game. Every time the astute British politicians called for a sacrifice on the part of the Irish Home Rule Party that party yielded the point and sacrificed their principles. They yielded to sacrifice Ulster and divide their country, they yielded the control of taxation, they yielded control over the Post Office, Customs and Excise; in short, they yielded everything that gives live and power to a nation. And finally, when their grandest opportunity came in the breath of war they yielded up countless thousands of the lives of their trusting fellow-countrymen.
And in return they achieved – NOTHING. Home Rule, pitiful abortion as it is, is hung up, and side by side with the law suspending it is framed the declaration of the English Prime Minister that it would in his opinion be unthinkable to force Home Rule upon Orange Ulster. So that the politicians as a result of their forty years babbling in the wilderness at Westminster can only record their failure to achieve that which was to them as the breath of their nostrils, whereas the Irish people fighting in Ireland upon the battleground of their farms, leagues, and trade unions, have compelled an unwilling legislature to pass measure after measure enacting as law that which the power of the people had already won as rights.
As servants of England the members of the Home Rule Party are perhaps entitled to their salaries, but if their claim to £400 per year is based upon achievements for Ireland the claim is but an impudent attempt to obtain money under false presences.
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Last updated on 28.9.2007