James Connolly


Appendix I

Extracts from Letters


Relevant extracts from letters sent by
James Connolly to John Carstairs Matheson,
Editor of The Socialist,
The organ of the S.L.P. of Great Britain.


May 6, 1904.

As a favour I ask you to print the accompanying article as it stands. I have veiled it so that none but the readers of The People will see that it is really an answer to DeLeon’s charge upon me. I simply answer him out of his own mouth. All the quotations are verbatim and complete.

I would not ask you to do this only I fear that unless I can get my side heard by some such means he will intrigue me out of the party. God knows why. I don’t ... It is well to remember also that you will probably have to combat the wages heresy also if it is allowed to go with his imprimatur.



May 26, 1904.

Your welcome letter came alright to hand, altho’ its first words nearly took my breath away. I am glad you have not lost faith in me. By the time this letter reaches you I will have been tried by the Troy Section, and if they decide against me I will be expelled. If they refuse to decide, then I will escape until the Convention when, Dan says, the whole matter will be laid before the National Delegation.

Apropos of your criticism I dare say you are right, and I am convinced already that the game is not worth the candle. The candle being Dan’s friendship. But I am not saying that publicly. Publicly I am going to put up a stiff fight, and I promise you all the wounds won’t be on one side. I think Dan is up against a tougher proposition than he is aware of, to use an Americanism. Of course when I wrote first I thought he would take it good humouredly, as I have often discussed with him privately and he did not seem to take it amiss. But he is pretty unscrupulous. One writer Janke of Indianapolis, having complained of my exclusion from The People after being asked a lot of questions by Dan, he, DeLeon, answered that I would have been allowed insertion had I answered his questions but that I left them all unanswered. Now that is simply a damned lie.

As to the question you ask me about the previous crowdings out of the party, I am inclined to think that some few men may have been irritated at Dan’s dogmatism and rather unscrupulous handling of their case, that they struck out too wildly and without justification committed something like treason. But they ought not have allowed themselves to be irritated into such actions, and their self-love must have been rather pronounced to make them so act. Personally I sin resolved to fight the best I know how, but to fight so that when passion against me cools down no reasoning man can point to any act of mine to help the enemy. Your suggestion that my criticism of Bebel’s book might be used by the enemy is belated by the reason that Martha Moore Avery and her crew campaigned Massachussets against the S.D.P. on that book and Bax’s writing before my article appeared. So that the writing of such an article was designed to save the S.L.P. from such a campaign or a similar one, by giving our comrades an opportunity to declare it to be unofficial, and only the private views of a member. I will send on to you a copy of my defence before the Troy Section. I hope you will favour me by giving our branches in Scotland a loan of the manuscript in order that they may read it and judge me accordingly. The opinion of my comrades in Scotland are very dear to me, and I hope they will be cool enough to hear before condemning an old comrade.

Of course it must not be published. It could do you no good. I would give a few cents to hear my comrade Jimie Armstrong and his comments on Dan’s attitude on the wages question. I know they suit Jimie alright ... The present scrap and the superficial criticism of my letter, on wages at least, should prove to you the truth of the statement I often made after my first trip here, viz., that the average S.D.F.er knew more economics than the average S.L.P.er, but the latter shows in his knowledge of how to apply Socialist principles to politics.



June 22, 1904.

... Troy has been converted and sent my defence to the N.E.C. with the request that it be published in The People. I enclose you a copy of the defence. If you get it typed send me back a clean copy please. I did not mean to exclude the English branches but mentioned Scottish as they are and have been especially my intimate comrades.

The prevailing opinion in Troy is that the defence will not be published. Did you see the article by Ballhaus of Boston? Will you believe that in The People of June 21, that comrade actually believes that he is supporting DeLeon and opposing me? Just read his article with that fact – for it is a fact – in view, and you will understand that even the delicate outline of The Socialist article will fail in some places. But I notice that since The Socialist arrived in this country there has been a sudden stop to all the correspondence in the Daily at least a week ahead of their appearance in the Weekly! Possibly Dan sees the point, even if his devotees don't.



No date, post mark July 22, 1904.

... I see by the N.E.C. report in this week's Weekly People, the Executive Committee of the S.L.P. of Great Britain have apologised for the insertion in The Socialist of a letter bearing upon the controversy in The People, and has also (as it was expressed to me) promised to be good and behave better in future. This is very interesting, and recalls to my mind your statement that when Dan asked your opinion on the questions at issue you did not venture to give him any, even on the wages and prices issue, on which I know you hold very decided opinions. But do not let that distress you. You are not the only person who differs from Dan, and is afraid to say so. Dan played a smart trick at the Conference. Of course I could not be present; was not a delegate, and had my nose too close to the grindstone of exploitation to attend anyway. So, Dan read my correspondence, paragraph by paragraph, adding his own criticism in between, so that delegates could not discern where I ended and my quotations began, and had lost sight of one sentence before he began to read the one that pointed its moral. As a result he had no difficulty in tearing me to pieces – and thus succeeded by this trick – worthy of a shyster lawyer – in preventing the publication of the letters, and in preventing the delegates and the party at large from having the opportunity of studying and calmly reviewing the evidence in cold print. It was a ‘great victory.’ The result is that throughout the S.L.P. I am looked upon as an incipient traitor. He has thus got the S.L.P. attuned to his music. And as he has also, it would appear, got you in Great Britain also dutifully in line. I must just patiently await the axe.

How very revolutionary we all are? Of course there is not hero-worship amongst us. We believe that the emancipation of the working class must be the achievement of the working class, but neither in Great Britain nor America can a working class Socialist expect common fairness from his comrades if he enters into controversy with a trusted leader from a class above them. The howl that greets every such attempt whether directed against a Hyndman or a DeLeon in America (excuse the comparison) sounds to my mere proletarian ear wonderfully alike, and everywhere is but the accents of an army, not of revolutionary fighters, but of half-emancipated slaves ... I can assure you your sympathy has been very welcome to me in this very unscrupulous controversy. Amid a sea of doubts and surrounded by a host of unscrupulous calumniators it was very sweet to have, even so far away, some whose faith in me never faltered.

Greetings to all my comrades.
Yours Fraternally,


Last updated on 7.8.2003