James Connolly


The Irish Socialist Republican Party
and the Dewsbury Election

(29 March 1902)

The Irish Socialist Republican Party and the Dewsbury Election, Justice, 29 March 1902, p.6.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


I have so often received commendatory notices from Justice that I can scarcely complain if now I receive a stricture, even although that stricture may be, in my opinion, as wide of the truth as was the commendation perhaps is the minds of other people. But whilst not resenting I may yet point out the errors of your note in Justice of the 15th inst.

After quoting the Workers’ Republic in its notice of the treacherous action of the United Irish League at Dewsbury – a notice in which we say that, “If it were not for the fact that Quelch’s defeat meant a distinct loss to the Socialist cause, I would have rejoiced over this action of the U.I.L.,” you say that “to rejoice over the defeat of our candidate would be rather petty,” and go on to labour that point. But, comrade, the words you have quoted do not justify the interpretation that we would have rejoiced at your defeat under any circumstances. You are somewhat hasty; the rejoicing was to be over the action of the U.I.L., not over the defeat of Quelch, and unless you are prepared to take up the ridiculous position that success or defeat at Dewsbury lay with the Irish Home Rulers to decide, your complaint is utterly beside the mark. The words in our paper were written under circumstances of great excitement and confusion, but now, considering them more calmly, it may interest you to know that I withdraw that reservation entirely. I am heartily and unfeignedly glad of the action of the Home Rulers at Dewsbury as I would be at any action of theirs which would tend to convince my English comrades that the Home Rule gang is a capitalist concern, mouthing revolutionary phraseology in order to cloak utterly reactionary practices and designs. The splendid vote polled by Quelch at Dewsbury against such splenetic and treacherous opposition may be taken now as registering the high-water mark of Socialist feeling in the district; as such it gives heart to the comrades, but if we had to allow for a large percentage of Home Rule votes the poll at Dewsbury would have been utterly valueless to our cause. Therefore, I rejoice.

Now, in re, the manifesto. I, of course, accept your statement that you never saw it. But, seeing that a marked copy of it was posted to you in a regularly sealed and addressed envelope, you will admit that our assumption that you had received it was by no means a rash one. Of course, strange things do happen in the post. The issue of Justice for January 11 only reached this office on March 4, but then the wrapper bore the strange and wonderful address, “Irish Republic, 138, Upper Abbey Street, Durban,” so no wonder that went astray. Our manifesto was noticed favourably in the Socialist press of Germany, France, and America; that it should be ignored by the English Socialists to whom it was addressed was not calculated to the promotion of fraternal feelings between us.

On your attitude to the Irish Parliamentary Party and my election address: The reference to being “anxious to shield” was, of course, inspired by the manifesto business noted above, the manifesto being an attack upon Home Rulers. The statement that you attempted to rebut our assertion that the action of the U.I.L. was inconsistent and treacherous does seem to me at least to be borne out by the passages in Justice in which you first noticed the address spoken of. I may have misunderstood you. My citation of Lanarkshire and Dewsbury was addressed to the electors of Dublin upon whose religious feelings our enemies were playing by declaring that no Catholic could vote for a Socialist – a cry afterwards endorsed by the priests. Obviously it was, therefore, good policy to point out that those same gentry had advised Irish Catholics in Lanarkshire to vote for a man who claimed to be a Socialist, and whom they had formerly denounced as a Socialist; and at the time the election address was published the Dublin Evening Telegraph, the evening edition of the Freeman’s Journal, had recommended Quelch to the Irish electors at Dewsbury. This was at the time the only thing like an official pronouncement upon your election contest.

Thanking you in anticipation for the insertion of this somewhat lengthy epistle, and inclosing a copy of the manifesto all the bother is about,


I am, yours fraternally,
6, Lower Liffey Street, Dublin.



Editorial Note

We readily give space to this letter, and are pleased to have to acknowledge that we misunderstood the reference to the Dewsbury result. It was a mistake for which we apologise. We note now that it was at the action of the U.I.L. and not at the defeat of our candidate, that our Irish comrades would have rejoiced. For ourselves we never attached so much importance to the action of the U.I.L. in that connection as did some of our friends; the chief point was that in the peculiar circumstances of the case, in which it was stated that our candidate had been “foisted on the constituency,” great capital was made by our enemies out of any pronouncement made against us by any representative body. We are under no delusion as to the composition of the Irish Parliamentary Party, and if the Liberal candidate had been an honest Home Ruler it would have been quite consistent for them to have supported him rather than a Socialist; seeing, however, that he was an Imperialist, their action was somewhat inconsistent. In another part of this paper we publish the manifesto referred to above. In the main we are in entire agreement with it. We have said practically the same thing ourselves about the Irish Parliamentary Party, and the manifesto leaves our withers unwrung. At the same time, because we do hold these opinions about the I.P.P. we can scarcely regard their hostility to Socialists, except under very exceptional circumstances – as “inconsistent.” We do not regard Liberal opposition to us as inconsistent, except when their only choice is between a Socialist and a reactionary Tory, or when, while professing to be anti-jingoes, they vote for an Imperialist in preference to a Socialist. Otherwise their opposition is quite logical and consistent. For the rest, we can only say that we never had any reason – as Connolly seems to have supposed – for not giving publicity to the manifesto but, whatever the cause may have been, it never came into our hands until we received it with the above letter.


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