Workers’ Republic, 3 September 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 compositor fiend had his innings last week. Whether it was revolutionary enthusiasm or loyalist spleen which disturbed his brain we know not, but we do know that pages 3 and 7 and part of page 6 of our last issue presented to the readers a new species of grammar and orthography decidedly unknown to the writers of this paper.
The spelling was as vile as the principles of a hireling scribe on an Unionist or Home Rule newspaper, and the grammar was as doubtful as the patriotism of a politician.
We are assured by the printer that precautions have been taken to prevent the recurrence of such mistakes. We hope so. The fiend capable of such an atrocity as we complain of ought to be bound hand and foot and thrown among the wild beasts – in the City Hall.
United Ireland, which still drags on its painful career, presumably by means of the donations begged from the country priests, takes us to task for our exposure of the double-dealing practised by certain leading lights in the ’98 Executive, in the matter of speech-making and toast-drinking.
It asks can we not “recognise the distinction between the men who ostentatiously drink a toast which a Nationalist cannot with regard to himself honour, and the person who, though present when the toast is given, does not drink it, but treats it with calm indifference”.
How beautifully that sentence is worded. The suggestio falsi was never more cleverly introduced. Mr Harrington does not attempt to prove that the persons referred to did not drink the loyal toast, but he gently hints to them a way by which they can escape the censure they so richly deserve.
We can imagine these gentlemen as soon as they read the paragraph in United Ireland immediately chorussing, “Yes, that’s it, we were there of course but we did not drink the toast, we treated the toast with indifference.”
But swallowed the liquor with joy.
Now in order to prove the absurdity of this excuse let us put a parallel case. Suppose that at each of the functions referred to, viz, the Press Banquet at Malahide and Health Congress Banquet in Dublin, the convenors had put upon the list of toasts, An Irish Republic; would the loyalists present have sat in silence or allowed their names to go to the newspapers as participating in the function?
And if they had would their newspapers have remained silent over the matter as our Home Rule rags have done?
Is it too much to expect that our Nationalist politicians (so-called) shall at least be as consistent in their public actions as the Unionists whom they pretend to oppose?
Does not the howl set up by all those middle-class journalists when any of their number is exposed, and their little treacheries held up to the light of day, betray an uneasy conscience?
But United Ireland wants the Workers’ Republic to be more impartial, forsooth. It asks what about Alderman Pile who, “at a dinner recently not only drank the health of the Queen but proposed the toast himself and bubbled all over with delight when he saw his guests honouring it”?
Well, never in our wildest dreams did we imagine Alderman Pile to be a Nationalist. He owes his position in the Corporation of Dublin to the fact that that body is elected on a restricted franchise. He is a fitting representative of the middle-class who elected him.
Like yourself, Tim, my dear boy, he is not, nor, perhaps, ever would be elected to that body by the workers’ votes.
But, United Ireland continues, “Alderman Pile was, a few days before this loyal performance, co-opted on the Wolfe Tone Committee.”
Sorry to hear it, but not surprised. The Wolfe Tone Committee is the child of the ’98 Executive, which at its inception was thoroughly honest and patriotic, but which is now dominated and controlled by the quondam members of Mr Harrington’s United Irishmen Centennial Association.
It is a pity the Wolfe Tone Committee should so co-opt some men who propose and other men who drink loyal toasts, but after swallowing Mr Harrington’s nest of wire-pullers, it should easily assimilate a common or garden Alderman.
Why do we insist so much upon outspokeness in such matters? Because there is just now a perfect land-slide in a loyalist direction in Ireland. Home Rule Lord Mayors shaking hands with Tory Lord Lieutenants, Home Rule Editors drinking loyal toasts to-day and writing “patriotic articles” tomorrow, Home Rule Corporations electing Tory Lord Mayors, the conquest of Ireland at last accepted and ratified by her sons.
Said Darby the Blast in Lever’s novel, Tom Burke of Ours, “Bad luck to the gintry, ’tis the gintry ever and always betrayed us.”
Since our Home Rule politicians were graciously permitted to associate with Lords and Earls on the Financial Relations agitation, all the virility and aggressiveness has gone out of our public life, and our politicians are now afraid to utter a single sentence which might not suit their new allies.
If this loyalist reaction is to be stopped and the tide of public feeling set flowing in a more healthy direction, we require strong, vigorous speech and action, both in public and private.
Therefore we say: away with middle-class leadership, which means middle-class compromise, middle-class trickery, middle-class time-serving, middle-class treachery. Room for the strong hand and clear brain of Labour.
We can assure our friends there is no trace of personal feeling in our attitude towards the middle-class politicians and their hireling scribes.
If we cherish any other feeling towards them than that of amused contempt it must be that feeling which animates the naturalist when he gazes upon some strange freak of nature – just newly caught and not yet classified.
The “freaks” which abound in Irish politics to-day are in our opinion the outcome of the foolishness of so many of our countrymen in insisting upon a “broad platform”.
They will have no exclusiveness, they tell us, and open out their ranks to all who like to enter, and no questions asked. Their organizations are run on the same principles as Barnum’s menagerie. Pay the entrance money and you have the run of the show.
As a result they get what they want, a “broad platform”, so broad in fact is it you can neither discover where it begins or ends.
For our part we are for a narrow platform, a platform so narrow that there will not be a place on it where anyone not an uncompromising enemy of tyranny can rest the soles of his feet.
And yet broad enough for every honest man. Eh, Tim.
Next for shaving.
“Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll.” So sang the poet in his most condescending mood. But I have never heard that the ocean rolled either faster or slower because of the permission thus graciously accorded to it.
And I am just inclined to think that the onward rolling ocean of Labour will pay as little heed to the bland advice which the Dublin dailies are so freely distributing on the question of labour representation.
Now that the scribes perceive the working men are determined on having their class represented they are all purring forth their approval of the step. As they are not strong enough to oppose they seem resolved to try what flattery can do to prevent the working men entering the Council animated with strong class feelings.
If they are so convinced of the value of labour representation, how many parliamentary seats are they prepared to hand over to labour candidates? Eh, my soft-spoken friends.
Now don’t all speak at once. We know you all are in Parliament at an immense sacrifice to yourselves, and that you only remain there for your country’s sake, so the opportunity of leaving it will be a perfect godsend to you. Who will hand up his seat to a bona fide representative of labour, chosen, say, by the Trades Councils of Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick respectively?
What, no answer. You are still resolved to sacrifice yourselves for your country’s good – on the cushioned seats and in the well-upholstered smoke-rooms of the British Parliament.
Heroic self-sacrifice, unselfish devotion!
The Freeman’s Journal, commenting on the Bristol Trades Union Congress, declares that a period has opened in which the war between labour and capital will be waged in a more bitter and uncompromising spirit than ever.
It declares that the recent engineers’ lockout has proven the crushing strength masters can bring to bear when organized, and regrets the defeat of the unions, not, mark, because the Freeman’s Journal sympathises with labour, but because, in its own words, “they (the unions) have acted as the most effective of all defences against the revolutionary ideas that find such fertile soil in France, Germany or Italy. Their disappearance would not mean the cessation of the activity of the workers for their advantage, but the diversion of it into new and far more dangerous channels.”
I am glad to hear a capitalistic organ like the Freeman so openly admitting that Socialism is a more “dangerous” foe to the exploitation or robbery of labour than trade unions are. But what shall we say then of the danger (to oppression) of trades unionism and Socialism combined, as they are on the Continent, and as they will be here when the Irish worker divests himself of the fear of politics in trade unions – a fear imported into this country from the conservative, slow-moving trade organizations of Great Britain.
The London correspondent of the Freeman also informs us that “the Trades Union Congress is presided over, for the first time, by a Socialist, and moreover by an Irishman, Mr James O’Grady of Bristol.”
He then goes on to say – “Mr O’Grady is possessed of sound common sense.” Of course, Mr Correspondent, that is why he is a Socialist.
Go thou and do likewise.
And be assured that the democracy of Ireland are not in the least afraid of “revolutionary ideas” even if the old woman of Prince’s Street is.
If you shriek in our ears about “Continental Socialism”, we will shout back “’tis better than British capitalism”, which will be a comforting reflection to cheer the heart of a
Last updated on 29.7.2007