James Connolly


The Irish Nationalist Press

(26 July 1913)

From Forward, 26 July 1913.
Copied with thanks from the Workers Liberty Website.
Transcription & HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

For some time past the agricultural labourers of Lancashire have been attracting, by a strike, attention to the fact that their section of the working class has its grievances as well as that which from its concentration in industries is able to more readily achieve the organisation required for the dramatic action that secures newspaper notoriety.

But I have not seen in any cross-channel newspaper, Labour or otherwise, any notice of the fact that for some time past the organisation of the agricultural labourers of County Dublin has been pushed with great energy and success. Our Comrade, Jim Larkin, and the Irish Transport Workers’ Union, with their customary energy have spread the propaganda through all the small towns and villages of the County, with the result that recruits are being enrolled every Sunday in great numbers. Six hundred new members as the result of one meeting been achieved on more than one occasion.

Of course, the Nationalist Press takes no notice of these immense meetings, and gives no helping hand to the work of organising those much neglected men. But if some fourth-rate politician went out to Swords, Malahide, or [illegible], to establish a branch of the United Irish League, and brought with him a few bar-room orators from Dublin, the resultant meeting would be recorded with great headings and imposing editorials. The fact that an accidental conflict on the roadside between two Irish terriers would probably gather a great crowd, and leave as valuable social enlightenment behind it, would not in the least degree affect the amount of newspaper space devoted to the “historic gathering.” All political pow-wows in Ireland are “historic gatherings!”

The reader will think I am exaggerating when I describe the manner in which the Irish Home Rule Press set themselves to work to boom the efforts of their own political partisans. I am not. I have known of meetings held in Dublin in the back parlours of tenement houses capable of accommodating about thirty persons on an average, and these meetings got as many columns of space in the Home Rule Press as the British Liberal Press would give to the utterances of a fourth-rate Cabinet Minister.

These reports were and are intended for the consumption of persons outside Dublin, and intended to catch the eye of the Dubliner who was too contemptuous of the meeting to go next door to attend it.

The country people would read of the meeting, and seeing the long reports of the speeches would say that “The League is doing great things in Dublin” and imagine to themselves an enormous gathering of thousands.

At the same time, a Labour meeting attended by thousands of alert and vigorous-minded Dublin men and women would be dismissed in the same issue of the same Press with a paragraph of at most a dozen lines; perhaps not noticed at all.

And the people in the country would in all probability not read the paragraph about the Labour meeting.

I remember some few amusing instances of this nature. During the closing months of the split in the Home Rule party before the present United party was founded, the late Timothy Harrington MP was editor of United Ireland, and through that paper was the first to broach the question of unity. All sides really wanted unity, but as they had been for years abusing each other in Press and on platform, and had given the Irish public such an insight into the sordid and insincere character of each others’ pretensions to patriotism, and such accurate, if painfully disgusting, analysis of each others’ personalities, that all sides professed to repudiate with scorn the idea of uniting with the party composed of the low characters they had represented their opponents to be.

Harrington was left to pursue his advocacy of unity alone. But although a thorough bully and unscrupulous enemy of labour in Ireland, Harrington was a strong and sagacious personality, and held both sides to the split in that contempt the man of real force of character always holds for the puppets whose reputations depend upon the spilling of newspaper ink. So he pursued the even tenor of his way.

Good phrase that! I do not know the difference between an even tenor and an even soprano or bass, but Harrington pursued it, anyway.

He was a member of the National Club, which then was holding regular meetings in Rutland Square, and in the midst of his unity propaganda the date arrived on which he was to be the speaker of the evening. The meeting was boycotted by the club members and by the outside pubic, and Mr Harrington: could not even secure a chairman.

So he had to take the chair himself, and introduce himself, and be both speaker and chairman. He went right ahead, delivered his speech, and next morning the report of his speech in the Press occupied more columns than there were persons present at the meeting.

The cowardly Home Rule Press was exceedingly anxious that the speech should be delivered, exceedingly anxious that the speech should get the widest publicity, exceedingly anxious that its conclusions should be accepted and unity realised, but exceedingly afraid that they should appear to recognise the proposal before they saw how the cat was going to jump.

Thus, they simulated an appearance of opposition to Mr. Harrington’s proposals, but gave his reasonings and arguments the widest publicity.

Whereas in the case of labour they simulate friendship but suppress all arguments for and exaggerate and give the widest publicity to all slanders against or happenings any way hurtful to the cause of labour.

An even more amusing illustration of the art of political boasting was given in Dublin when Mr. O’Brien was introducing the United Irish League into that city. I suppose many of our readers are hardly aware of the fact that although Mr. William O’Brien is now excommunicated by the United Irish League, and its bitterest foe, yet he is the founder, inspirer, and whilst it was an active force in agrarian struggles, was the chief financier and leader of that League. But such is the case.

For a long time the cities of Ireland, and Dublin in particular, remained callous and cold to the appeals of the League. They regarded it as a peasants’ or as an agricultural movement, pure and simple, and would, have nothing to do with it. But the politicians wanted the cities, and so a concerted attack was made upon Dublin.

Dublin, understand, was and is important politically in Ireland because even the peasantry, who in most countries are jealous of the capital, in Ireland do not trust a movement which cannot claim the intellectual adhesion of the capital.

Hence, the hosts of the United Irish League, backed up by all the financial resources of Mr. O’Brien, and the concerted powers of the Home Rule Press, set out to make Dublin a tributary of the League, whether it would er not.

A band was hired, also a gang of corner boys or loafers to cheer the speaker, and if need be, break the head of any opponent. Then “great meetings” were announced in all the various districts. All United Irish League gatherings are “great meetings” when they are not “magnificent demonstrations”.

The same gang of corner boys made up the meeting on each occasion. At Inchicore they were addressed by the orators as the “unconquered democracy of Inchicore”, at Wood Quay they were the “sterling working class of Wood Quay Ward”, at Drumcondra they were the “patriot men of Drumcondra,” at Arran Quay they stood for the “true and tried men of Arran Quay,” and in the Harbour Division they responded enthusiastically as the orators praised their record as “citizen voters in that Gibraltar of Irish Nationalism – the Harbour Division of Dublin.”

And each day the newspapers described the same gang differently, and waxed eloquent in their leading columns upon the magnificent rally of the working class of Dublin to the ranks of the United Irish League.

And the readers down the country and the Irish in Great Britain swelled with exaltation as they read of the great reception the Dublin workers gave to the orators of the League. Indeed it was primarily for the benefit of the readers down the country and in Great Britain that the meetings were arranged.

But as the Dublin workers saw the corner boys marched back and forwards across their city to pose as the residents in the various wards and districts, and as they read in the papers the list of, the committees in charge, and saw there the names principally of pawnbrokers, slum landlords, publicans, and sweaters, what wonder that they treated the whole affair with contempt.

It is from that date I count the growth of that healthy distrust of the Dublin Press, and disbelief in its truthfulness, which is so marked a feature to-day in Dublin life. But for that distrust and disbelief, the Labour movement of the metropolis of Ireland would long ago have succumbed to the fury of the onslaught, made upon it by the venal prostitutes of the newspaper world.

In dealing with Labour movements in their own country and amongst their own nationalist people, the writers on the Dublin Press surpass the bitterest ravings of Sir Edward Carson and his followers in intolerance and suggestions of mob violence.

The-sole difference being that whereas the suggestions, of mob violence given out by the Orange orators fall upon a people disposed to act upon them, the similar suggestions of the Dublin pressmen are treated with contempt by the persons to whom they are directed.

The slanders and incitements to violence of the Orange orators are directed against those who differ with them politically: the slanders and incitements to violence of the Home Rule pressmen are directed against those who oppose their paymasters industrially. If the latter generally fail where the former succeed, the spirit is the same.

Speed the day when Home Rule will strip each of the corrupt gangs of the mask they have worn so long, and show them to the democracy in their true colours upon the same platform, defending the same hateful cause of class domination.

For that day, the great work now being carried forward among the agricultural workers by Jim Larkin is an indispensable preparation. Industrial slaves or slaves acquiescing in the conditions of their slavery cannot furnish the basis of a really free nation. And the agricultural labourer is among the worst treated of all the slaves of Ireland. Time and again attempts have been made to arouse him, and time and again he has responded. The agrarian secret societies of the past, the Ribbonmen, the Shanavests, the White Boys, the Caravats, were largely societies of agricultural labourers and small farmers.

By the way, the Ancient Order of Hibernians makes the comical claim.to be descended from these bodies just mentioned. But one particular feature that marked their existence was almost exclusive interest in and solicitude for the just settlement of social questions such as agrarian disputes, and contests over wages and conditions of labour. And these questions are the very questions Hibernianism takes no interest in; nay, Hibernianism prefers the presence in its ranks of the most merciless grinder of the faces of the poor, if wealthy, to the presence of the most virtuous labourer who has nothing but his virtues and his poverty to recommend him.

Nearer our own day the agricultural labourers of Ireland flocked in large numbers into the Land and Labour Association, especially in the South. This Association grew into great strength, developed a sane and practical policy of its own, and was progressing brilliantly until it was ruined by the schemes of ambitious politicians anxious to bend it to their own party uses.

The present move, by linking up the town with the country, should serve to make the gain more permanent to the latter. And by bringing to the country labourer the help of the leadership of the town worker, with his greater opportunities of education, association, and enlightenment, the alliance of both under one banner should further generally the belief in the future of labour in this country.

We want to see an Ireland in which all classes of labour will be united under one banner, in which each industry will have its own organisation embracing all within that industry, in which all industries will be linked together in one all-embracing union, and in which that all-embracing union of labour will give effective expression to the will of labour in the workshop, the field, the factory, the Council Chamber, and the Parliament.


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