James Connolly


Labour, Nationality and Religion


Chapter IV
The Suicide of a Nation

Most scientific Socialists appear to follow Karl Marx in his theory that economic forces alone determine the evolution of all else in the world. In other words, to put the matter in a broad, blunt way, they assert that financial or business or trade conditions determine and decide the inevitable course and development of all other matters – intellectual, moral, social, and religious. Marx says:

The sum total of the conditions of wealth production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real basis on which is raised an ethical and political superstructure to which correspond certain forms of social consciousness... It is not the mind of man which determines his life in society, but it is this material economic life that determines his mind.

The world has beheld one fact which gives the lie to all that flimsy theory. Christ brought into the world so deep and wide and lasting a change that there has been no other ever like it. That change was hostile to economic causes; it came from outside the business world. But it determined a new world of thought and conduct, and through these moral causes it changed the social and economic lives of men. It brought into the civilised world the duty and honour of labour, the breaking of the fetters of the slave, the lifting up of woman to be man’s helpmate and equal, not his mere plaything or his property, the recognition of the rights of the poor to the ownership of the super-abundance of the wealthy.

Such a statement as that Christ brought into the world a change hostile to economic causes could only be made by a lecturer who presumed either upon lack of historical knowledge on the part of his audience, or upon the fact that as he spoke from a pulpit none of his immediate listeners would dare to point out his errors upon the spot. All but the merest dabblers in Scriptural history know that the economic oppression of the Jewish people was so great immediately before the coming of Christ that the whole nation had been praying and hoping for the promised Redeemer, and it was just at the psychological moment of their bondage as a nation and their slavery as a race that Christ appeared. And it is equally well known that the priests and comfortable classes – the "canting, fed classes" – refused to acknowledge His message and intrigued to bring about His crucifixion, whereas it was the “common people” who “heard Him gladly” in Judea, as it was the slaves and labourers who formed the bulk of His believers throughout the Gentile world until the fury of the persecutions had passed. Roman and Jewish historians alike speak contemptuously of early Christianity as a religion of slaves and labourers. These early Christians had been socially enslaved. Christ and His disciples spoke to them of redemption, of freedom. They interpreted, rightly or wrongly, the words to mean an earthly redemption, a freedom here and now as a prelude possibly to the freedom hereafter; and hence they joined with enthusiasm the sect hated by their oppressors. We have had a similar experience in Ireland. The passionate adherence of the Irish to Catholicity in Reformation times was no doubt largely due to the fact that the English Government had embraced Protestantism.

For the last portion of the part quoted it should not be necessary to point out to anyone other than Father Kane that of all those things which he asserts Christianity has “brought into the world” most are not here yet. The “duty and honour of labour”. The greatest honours of church and state are reserved for those classes whose members do not labour, and highest honours of all for those who claim that their ancestors have not laboured for a hundred generations. “The lifting up of woman to be man’s helpmate and equal, not his plaything or his property.” She has not yet attained to that elevation in fact, and the Socialists are the only ones who claim it for her in their programmes, whereas his Holiness the Pope has recently denounced her for seeking the right to vote. “The rights of the poor to the superabundance of the wealthy” is so far from being recognised that a starving man would be sent for seven years to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, and a rich man sent to the House of Lords for stealing a nation’s liberty.

Universal ownership by the state of all means of wealth production is one cardinal doctrine of Socialism. The Erfurt platform lays down: “Private property in the means of production has become incompatible with their proper utilisation and full development.” The platform of the Socialists of the United States lays down: “The aim of Socialism is the organisation of the working classes for the purpose of transforming the present system of private ownership of the means of production into collective ownership by the entire people.” The International Socialist Convention at Paris, 1900, lays down as an essential condition of membership the admission of the essential principles of Socialism; amongst them, “the socialisation of the means of production and distribution”.

Now consider the colossal magnitude of such a scheme. The taking of a census entails a strange amount of time and trouble. Try to imagine what it would mean to ascertain the wants, needs, desires, helps or difficulties of every man, woman and child in a nation, not merely in one branch, but in every possible branch of human life; all possible food stuffs, all possible dress stuffs, all possible lodging accommodation, all possible means of transit, travel or communication. Then imagine what it would mean that all this should be catered for; that all the possible labour should be applied in the right time, place and manner; that all the possible materials and tools for work should be made ready beforehand; that all possible difficulties or accidents should be anticipated. Surely so vast, so unending, so complex, so intricate a task would require many men of most surpassing genius. Further, consider the enormous multitude of officials which all this would require. The percentage of officials amongst the people would be really alarming, and these flunkeys would grow fat on the labour of the common fellows. It is absurd to suggest that every man would get his turn at being a full-blown flunkey with a pet position, or a full private with hard and nasty work to do.

With a childishness born of a training in a profession “not concerned with this world”, the reverend gentleman does not realise that the task of ascertaining and catering for the “wants, needs, desires”, etc., of the nation is done every day by the common everyday men and women he sees around him – done in a blundering, imperfect manner it is true, but still it is done. And what is done imperfectly by the competing forces of capitalism to-day can be done more perfectly by the organised forces of industry under Socialism. Government under Socialism will be largely a matter of statistics. The chief administrative body of the nation will be a collection of representatives from the various industries and professions. From the industries they represent these administrators will learn of the demand for the articles they manufacture; the industries will learn from the storekeepers of the national stores and warehouses what articles arc demanded by the general public who purchase at these stores, and the cumulative total of the reports given by storekeepers and industries will tell the chief administrative body (Congress, if you will) how much to produce, and where to place it to meet the demand. Likewise the reports brought to the representatives from their industrial union as to the relative equipment and power of their factories in each district will enable them to place their orders in the places most suited to fill them, and to supervise and push forward the building and developing of new factories and machinery. All this is so obvious to a mind acquainted with the processes of modern industry that it gives the Socialist a feeling of talking to the baby class when he has to step aside in order to explain it. All the talk of Socialist flunkeys, bosses, corruption, favouritism, etc., is the product of minds who are imagining the mechanism of capitalist business at work in a Socialist commonwealth, which is as absurd as to suppose that an Atlantic liner of the present day could be handled on the methods of a fishing boat on the sea of Galilee in the days of St. Peter. When the workers elect their foremen and superintendents, and retain them only during effective supervision and handling of their allotted duties, when industries elect their representatives in the National Congress and the Congress obeys the demand emanating from the public for whom it exists, corruption and favouritism will be organically impossible. Being a merely human society there will be faults and imperfections of course, but it has also been whispered that faults and imperfections exist even in the Society of Jesus. And yet that institution does its work.

Father Kane says:

They suppose that they could avoid class distinctions, but unless the state should lapse into barbarism it must have its specialists, its great engineers, its great doctors, its great scientists, its great writers, its great statisticians, its great inventors, its great administrators, and, above all, its great officials. All these men should have their lives devoted to their profession with material comfort and studious ease, with high incentive to their talents’ use, and with right reward for their labour done.

Observe the phrase, “with high incentive to their talents’ use”, and its implied meaning, with great monetary reward. It is a strange fact that when Socialists preach the necessity and duty of the men and women of genius serving their fellows, instead of using their God-given genius to rob their “fellow brothers and sisters of Christ”, it is always a paid servant of Christ who gets up to denounce the idea, and to insist that progress will cease unless men gifted by God get the right to plunder their fellow-men. And yet Christ said, “Give, hoping for nothing in return”. Fortunately, history knows and teaches us better than the churchmen. It teaches us that the greatest “engineers, doctors, scientists, writers, statisticians, and inventors” reaped nothing but their labour for their pains, that for the most part they died in poverty, and that the highest incentive they ever possessed was the inward desire to give outward expression to the divine passion to create, planted in their bosoms by Him who knew better than Father Kane. Under Socialism all will enjoy a full, free, and abundant life, with every possibility and appliance provided them to serve well their fellows. And what more could the ‘specialists’ desire?

At present the two great Socialist organisations in the United States are at war. Amongst other choice epithets bandied between them, one stigmatised the other as a party of ‘scabs’. Amongst German Socialists there are signs of a cleavage, which must inevitably split in twain any Socialist state. A fierce jealousy between the educated and the proletarians; between on the one hand, writers or speakers of good family, mostly the madcaps of atheistic universities, and, on the other hand, the mere workmen, who are suspicious of any leaders who do not belong to the labour class. This is easily understood, for Socialism must logically work out into a solid class, organisms to steady it, must oscillate wildly between a despotism, an oligarchy, and universal muddle; for a pure democracy has no other standard of right than the will of the masses, and the will of the masses is at the mercy of wire-pullers and demagogues. Thus a Socialist State would in theory be under the sovereignty of the mob in the street, but in reality it would be under the slavery of the conspirators in their den.

In previous portions of his tirade the reverend lecturer has been insisting vehemently that Socialism will inevitably mean a despotism in which political freedom will be impossible, and all must conform to the common mould. In this portion he finds fault with the Socialists because, while in perfect agreement as to their object, they quarrel over other matters. He says this “must inevitably split in twain the Socialist state”, but he carefully avoids explaining how the existence of two or more parties will destroy Socialism any more than it destroys capitalism. There are two, and more than two, purely capitalist parties in every nation in the civilised world. The fact that Socialists are as a rule men and women of strong individuality who fiercely contest for their rights, while it makes occasional unseemly squabbles in the Socialist ranks to-day, is the best guarantee that they are not likely to be working for a system which will crush their individuality or destroy their personal or political liberty. Also if splits in the party, harsh words among the members, and even hatreds could destroy the movement it would have died long ago, instead of growing stronger and more rapidly every day. And surely when we remember how fiercely hatreds have developed within the Christian fold – how the Dominicans have fought the Jesuits and the Jesuits have denounced the Dominicans, how the Lutherans have burned the Calvinists and the Calvinists have burned the Lutherans – we have no right to demand from an organisation of mere earthly origin more than was shown by organisations claiming Divine inspiration. Quarrels among Socialists, forsooth! Have we not had quarrels among Catholics? For sixty-eight years the Christian world saw two Popes directing and claiming its allegiance. The Pope at Avignon, supported by half of the bishops and clergy of the world, excommunicated the Pope at Rome and all his supporters; and his Holiness at Rome hurled back his curse in return. In 1046 Henry III of Germany entered Italy and found three Popes in Rome – all claiming the allegiance of the Catholic world, and denouncing each other worse than Socialists are denounced to-day. In 1527 an army of 30,000 troops under the Catholic Constable of Bourbon attacked and captured Rome, killed the Pope’s soldiers, imprisoned his Holiness Clement VII in the Castle of St. Angelo, and put the sacred city to the sack. They were all Catholic soldiers under Catholic officers, and they plundered and ravished the centre of Catholicity. But, it will be said, these were only quarrels; they were not disputes over doctrine. Father Kane is a Jesuit; the majority of priests who at present are in the forefront of the attack upon Socialism are also Jesuits. Let us remind our reverend critics of a few incidents in the history of their own order – instances of the fierce disputes between the Jesuits and other Catholics on points of important Catholic doctrine:

In India Jesuit missionaries adopted the life and practices of the Brahmins in 1609 in order to make converts, and in their desire to conciliate that caste they even refused the Holy Sacrament to no-caste pariah converts. This outrage upon Catholic teaching and practice was reported to the Pope by a Capuchin Friar, Norbert, and by the Bishop of Rosalia, and condemned in the strongest terms by Pope Innocent X in 1645, by Clement IX in 1669, by Clement XII in 1739, and by Benedict XIV in 1745. Pope Benedict XIV in 1741 denounced the Jesuits as “disobedient, contumacious, captious, and reprobate persons”. Melchior Cano, Bishop of the Canary Islands, banished the Jesuits from his diocese for teaching false doctrines, and for the same reason St. Charles Borromeo expelled them from the diocese of Milan, as did also his successor, Cardinal Frederick Borromeo. We do not presume to say which side was right in these controversies, but we submit that if Popes and Jesuits could be wrong, then on a point of doctrine they can be wrong now on Socialism – a point of economics and politics.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century a Jesuit missionary, Father Ricci, gained the favour of the Chinese Emperor, and he appointed Catholics to all high positions. The Catholic religion gained a strong foothold in China, established scientific observatories, and founded schools and universities. But the Dominican Fathers accused the Jesuits of allowing their converts to practise their old idolatry, and a fight started between the Jesuits and Dominicans over this question of what were called the ‘Chinese Rites’. Nine different Popes condemned these ‘Chinese Rites’, but the Jesuits refused to obey the Popes, and in 1710 imprisoned the Papal Legate of Clement XI in the prison of the Inquisition of Macao, where he died. Sixtus V, Urban VIII, and Clement VIII all died so soon after opposing the Jesuits that popular prejudice accused the Society of having had them assassinated. The Bishop of Pistoia, Scipio de Ricci, accused the Jesuits of having poisoned Pope Clement XIV, as did also Cardinal de Bernis, and the Spanish ambassador to the Court of Madrid declared that several Jesuits had told the Vicar General of Padua the approximate date on which the Pope would die. In China the Jesuits in 1700 got an edict from the Pagan Emperor defending them against the charges of heresy brought by the Pope, but eventually the fight between the Catholics became so scandalous that the heathens withdrew their toleration and suppressed the Christian religion in the empire. In 1661 the Jesuits alone had possessed one hundred and fifty-one churches and twenty-eight residences in China, had written one hundred and thirty-one works upon religion, one hundred and three on mathematics, and fifty-three on physical and moral science. All this was lost to Catholicity because of Jesuit perversion of Catholic doctrine, and consequent disgraceful feuds between Catholics. As the Jesuits perverted Catholic doctrine in India and China to gain the support of the great and powerful, is it wonderful if some think that they and other ecclesiastics are now again perverting Catholic doctrine for a like purpose?

The reader who has studied the facts set forth in our little excursion into Irish history in the introduction will appraise at its full value our reverend opponent’s disquisition upon patriotism in the next passage:

There is a patriotism that is false. It is a mere morbid, hysterical idolatry of a fetish, with an unreasoning rancorous hatred of those people who are not of its own ilk. But there is a patriotism that is true. It is a thoughtful, manly worship for the nation of which one is the son; it is a chivalrous allegiance to her honour, a disinterested service of her fortune, a prayerful veneration for her name, a devotedness unto death to her life. The Socialist will say that that is sentiment. No wonder, then, that the Socialist is the enemy of his country. The French Socialists are the worst enemies of France. The German Socialists are the worst enemies of Germany. The English Socialists are the worst enemies of the power, the greatness, and the empire of England. But our sentiment is the heartbeat of men true to their country, their Socialism is the heartburn of traitors to their Fatherland. If it be sentiment that a child should love its mother, that a man should love his home, then it is sentiment that a citizen should love his country, that a patriot should love his nature. But if this be sentiment, then I say that is the power which makes a nation. Ah! there is something in your inmost nature that affirms the truth and re-echoes the enthusiasm of what the poet sang:

Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land.

The Socialist doctrine teaches that all men are brothers, that the same red blood of a common humanity flows in the veins of all races, creeds, colours and nations, that the interests of labour are everywhere identical, and that wars are an abomination. Is not this also good Catholic doctrine – the doctrine of a Church which prides itself upon being universal or Catholic? How, then, can that doctrine which is high and holy in theory on the lips of a Catholic become a hissing and a blasphemy when practised by the Socialist? The Socialist does not cease to love his country when he tries to make that country the common property of its people; he rather shows a greater love of country than is shown by those who wish to perpetuate a system which makes the great majority of the people of a country exiles and outcasts, living by sufferance of capitalists and landlords in their native land. Under Socialism we can all voice the saying of the poet; at present ‘our’ native land is in pawn to landlords and capitalists.

When the reverend lecturer hurls at the Socialists the taunt that they are the worst enemies of their own country, whatever that country be, he is only repeating against us the accusation made more truly in times past against the order of which he is such an ornament. The Jesuits have been expelled from every Catholic country in Europe, and the grounds on which they have been expelled were everywhere the same, viz., that they were the worst enemies of their country, and were constantly intriguing against the government and national welfare, that their teaching made bad subjects, and all their influence was against the welfare of the state – just what they allege against Socialists to-day. They were expelled from Venice during the first half of the seventeenth century, from Portugal in 1759, from the French dominions in 1764 and 1767, from Spain in 1767, from Naples, Parma and Modena about the same time. Maria Theresa of Austria and Emperor Joseph, her son, also expelled them. The kings of Spain, Portugal and France united in an ultimatum to the Pope threatening to withdraw their countries from fealty to Rome and to create a schism unless the Pope suppressed them, and finally in a Brief issued July 21st, 1773, his Holiness, Pope Clement XIV, suppressed the Jesuits “in all the States of Christendom”. As the Catholic author of the article on the Jesuits in the Encyclopaedia Americana truly says, “They have been expelled over and over again from almost every Catholic country in Europe”. In 1601 the secular priests of England issued a pamphlet entitled, Important Considerations, in which they laid the blame of the Penal Laws against Catholics upon the Jesuits. The author of this work, William Watson, afterwards died a martyr for the Catholic faith. The Papal Brief, Dominus ac Redemptor, speaks of their defiance of their own constitution, expressly revised by Pope Paul V, forbidding them to interfere in politics, of the great ruin to souls caused by their quarrels with local ordinaries and other religious orders, the conformity to heathen usages in the East, and the disturbances resulting in persecution of the Church which they have stirred up even in Catholic countries, so that several Popes have been obliged to punish them. It is instructive to recall that upon their suppression the Jesuits took refuge in Russia under Catherine, and in Prussia under Frederick, both sovereigns being freethinkers. Not until the French Revolution had frightened all liberal ideas out of the crowned heads of Europe, and the fall of Napoleon enabled the sceptred tyrants of England and the Continent to place their iron heels upon the necks of the people, did the Jesuits once more receive an invitation to resume their activity and their existence as an order. That invitation was coincident with the suppression of all popular liberties, and the enthronement of absolute power.

Is it not, then, a joke to see Socialists accused of being unpatriotic, and accused by a Jesuit?


Last updated on 12.8.2003