Forward, 3rd June 1911.
What is Socialism? Such must be the query each of your readers must have pondered over, when they perused Comrade Connolly’s article in last week’s issue. For if what he preaches therein be Socialism, then surely he has a monopoly of the brand he adumbrates.
He utilises the first two paragraphs to attack Belfast and all within its borders, and draws a lurid picture of what the “Orange orators” would do, etc., “if trade were bad.” A picture that, however true of 20 years’ ago, is totally false as applied to the present day. For I affirm that it has now become impossible in Belfast to have a religious riot, and this is due to the good work done by that much despised body, the I.L.P.
I hold no brief for Belfast, but past bigotry aside, we have moved fast towards Municipal Socialism, leaving not merely the other cities of Ireland far behind, but giving the lead to many cities in England and Scotland.
We collectively own and control our gas works, water works, harbour works, markets, tramways, electricity, museums, art galleries, etc., whilst we Municipally cater for bowlers, cricketers, footballers, lovers of band music (having organised a Police Band), and our works’ department do an enormous amount of ‘timed’ and ‘contract’ work within the Municipality. With the above in operation, we, in Belfast, have no need to be ashamed of being compared in Municipal management with any city in the kingdom. What does Comrade Connolly say?
Now, as to the Socialist Party of Ireland (and, by the way, who are they, how many branches and members have they?) that superior international body to the I.L.P.?
They (the S.P.I.) “believe that the Socialist movement in Ireland and Great Britain should be based upon comradeship and mutual assistance, and not upon dues paying, should be fraternal and not organic, etc.” Words, words, words! What do they mean in practice? Why that the S.P.I. want the Trades Unions in Ireland to cease to contribute dues to an amalgamated Union ... That the Co-operative movement should cease its financial connection; that the great Friendly Society branches in Ireland should divorce themselves (financially) from their brethren across the channel, and that, having done so, we should raise aloft the flag of Internationalism, and declare that we, and we alone, are the only true Socialists and Internationalists! Bunkum, friend Connolly; you are obsessed with an antipathy to Belfast and the black North, and under your obsession you advocate reactionary doctrines alien to any brand of Socialism I have ever heard of.
Now, just to correct your history. You say that “Nationalist Ireland contains all the elements of social struggles and worrying political theories ... But in all the warring the advanced sections of Nationalist Ireland have looked in vain for help to the sturdy Protestant Democracy of the North.” Did you understand what you wrote, and what a libel the above is upon many of the greatest leaders whose recorded deeds illumine the pages of Irish history?
The leader and founder of the ‘’48’ revolt was a Presbyterian from Ulster, John Mitchell. It was in Ulster that the Irish volunteer movement had its birth, and its President (Colonel Irvine) and its Commander (Lord Charlemont) were of the ‘sturdy Protestant Democracy of the North.’ It was in Belfast their first grand review took place.
Twenty years before Michael Davitt started on that great career for the solution of the Irish Land Problem, Ulster had taken and given a lead to Ireland. A meeting was held in Dublin, on 6th August, 1850, presided over by an ‘Ulster Protestant,’ Jas. M’Knight, LL.D., to protest and organise a crusade against landlordism in Ireland, and in the great fight in the ’50’s, both in Parliament and the country, for the three F.’s, the names of three ‘sturdy Protestant Democrats’ of the North are always found leading – William Sharman Crawford, M.P.; Rev. Mr. Rodgers, of Comber; and Daniel M’Curdy Greer, B.L., are names whose association with agrarian agitation, is so intimate as to call for no further comment.
It was a ‘sturdy Protestant Democrat of the North,’ who led the revolt of the Irish Party, and began that career of obstruction so effective to Ireland. And Joseph Gillies Biggar, the Belfast pork merchant, can well challenge ‘any section of Nationalist Ireland’ for work done for the country, whilst in the great fight on the Land Bill of Gladstone’s, Lord Russell’s name, a Belfast Catholic, is inseparably associated, and the famous Protestant, Theobald Wolfe Tone, found Belfast to be the most favourable place to found that wonderful organisation, ‘the Society of United Irishmen,’ an organisation that has to its credit at least wonderful doughty deeds. In fact, whilst not disparaging the other provinces of Ireland, one can truthfully say that Ulster has given her fair quota to the work so much believed in by Comrade Connolly, viz., Nationalism.
And, may I further point out, that the Protestant faith has given more leaders to the Irish rebels than the Catholic faith. Grattan, Davies, Butt, Mitchell, Parnell, Shaw, Biggar, etc., are all names to conjure with, and all, without exception, were Protestants!
As to Comrade Connolly’s rejoicing over my defeat in North Belfast; well, that is his affair. But it does seem a peculiar kind of Socialism that aims at legislative independence before Socialism. I have, however, the satisfaction of knowing that the Nationalist Labour electors of North Belfast voted for me, whilst the Nationalists of all shades of thought will give me a hearing at any time and place, to expound my views, and with an enthusiasm unbounded have received from me the gospel of Socialism. May I remind Comrade Connolly of the famous dictum of that still more famous rebel, James Fintan Lalor, who declared that – “The land question contains, and the legislative question does not contain, the materials from which victory is to be manufactured.”
Whilst ‘Nationalist Ireland’ has mortgaged posterity to the tune of over 200,000,000 to compensate (?) Irish landlordism.
Now, just a final word. An Irish Labour Party is wanted. The I.L.P. are suspects: no due-contributing is to be allowed. Why? Count the enormous strides made in Belfast, under I.L.P. auspices, during the past 20 years, find a parallel, and would an Irish Labour Party help? Scotland itself affords the answer. She is a nation seeking academically, at least, legislative independence, and at the start of the L.R.C. movement Scotland formed a Scottish Labour Party. For years that Party appealed in vain to the workers, with the result that in 1909 the Scottish societies agreed to affiliate with the British Labour Party and their national organisation, whilst the delegates to the Portsmouth Conference (theoretically Home Rulers), unanimously adopted this policy.
Bailie Jack (Scottish Ironmoulders) declared that “what was wanted was the unity of our forces all over.” Just so, but Ireland has to be, must be, treated differently. Why? Because of the Conservative temperament of certain Irish propagandists, and because of their insistence on viewing the class war as a national question instead of, as it is, a world-wide question.
In the report of the E.C. of the Labour Party to the Newport Conference, under the heading of Internationalism, we find these words: “We are specially proud of the influence of our Party on International politics ... The visit of the Labour Party to Germany last Whitsuntide was one of the happiest and most auspicious events in the whole of our history. The members were received officially at most of the towns they visited, and at the lunch given in the Reichstag building at Berlin, one of the speakers who welcomed them was Dr. Von Bethmann-Hollweg, who, since then, has become the Imperial Chancellor. We hope that an opportunity will soon present itself for our receiving some of our Continental Parliamentary friends in the same hospitable way.”
This is Internationalism, and it is the I.L.P. who has pioneered this, and with their policy and aims on the question, I, at least, subscribe to.
My place of birth was accidental, but my duty to my class is worldwide, hence MY INTERNATIONALISM!
Last updated on 12.8.2003