The Workers’ Republic, 23 September 1899.
Reprinted in Red Banner, No.17 (PO Box 6587, Dublin 6).
Transcribed by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
The land for the people!
A splendid rallying cry, a fine old wheeze.
What is wanted is a good rallying cry; it does not matter whether it is sense or nonsense, whether it means anything or nothing, so long as it has a good, sonorous sound about it – and will fetch the working man.
Therefore, hurroo for the land for the people!
The United Irish League is now raising this good old cry again, and Mr Davitt MP is stumping the country to the old, old tune that served the professional agitators so well in the days of the Land League.
The old tune, and the old game. Any amount of cheering, band playing, demonstrating, and orating of leaders, but no toleration of anything in the nature of an intelligent discussion of the meaning of the words we are using, or the application of the principles we are invoking.
The land for the people!
In the days of the Land League every politician in Ireland professed to desire the land for the people, but scarcely two of them meant the one thing, and any man who would venture to rise at a public meeting to ask a speaker to explain what he meant was certain to be howled down as if he were a traitor.
And ran grave risks of having his neck broken as a reward for his temerity.
Home Rule MPs complain about the “gag” at Westminster, but no English Minister ever dared to stifle discussion half as rigorously as our Irish middle class have done when they had the power.
But that day is gone. The new working class democracy of Ireland is too alert, and too confident of its own strength, ever to surrender its political conscience to the care of leaders.
The land for the people! By all means, but
What is meant by “the land”?
And who are “the people”?
Mr Davitt said at a meeting in Duhallow that there were at present 40,000 farmers in Ireland who had become owners of their holdings since 1885, and he claimed this as a step in the direction of the “land for the people”.
How does the Socialist regard the matter? That there are now 40,000 more individuals interested in maintaining private ownership of land than there were in 1885.
Just how this is making “the people” owners of the land passes my comprehension.
Mr Davitt, and all the other posturing patriots who are using the United Irish League to boost themselves once more into notoriety, speak as if the tenant farmers alone constituted the people, but a common person like yours truly would even venture to include in that category the entire population of Ireland.
Farmers, and those who never turned a spadeful of earth on a farm, the people of our towns and cities as well as the people of our hills and valleys, the clerk as well as the cottier, the artisan equally with the agriculturalist.
All these are, collectively considered, the people.
The men whose fathers were hunted off the agricultural lands by landlord tyranny in the past have just as much title to the land as the men whose fathers were not hunted therefrom.
The land for the people should therefore mean the land for ALL the people.
Not to be divided up, or shared out, but to be vested in the nation at large as its public property.
The national ownership of the land – that is the real “land for the people”, but Mr Davitt and the wirepullers of the United Irish League know well that every one of the 40,000 peasant farmers he refers to as owners of their land are as much opposed to national ownership as Lord Clanricarde himself.
And when they speak of land why do they only refer to agricultural land?
What moral law, or maxim of political economy, can be held to justify private landholding in the cities which does not justify landlordism everywhere?
The land, alike in city and country, is the property of the entire people, and is only held by a class to-day because of the laws forced upon our fathers at the point of the sword.
Rent is the modern substitute for the tribute exacted from the dispossessed “Irishry” by the mail-clad invaders under Strongbow and his successors.
The land was once the property of the Irish clans. The clans were then the corporate embodiment of the life of the Irish nation. The clans are no more and could not be revived even if it were desirable to do so, which is more than questionable, but the right of ownership still lives on and should now be established in the modern corporate embodiment of the Irish nation – our public boards, municipalities, and independent Irish Congress, when we are men enough to win one.
Last updated on 29.7.2007