James Connolly


A Fiery Cross or Christmas Bells


From Irish Worker, 20 December 1913.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.

While we are writing this the one question agitating all Dublin is whether this Christmas will see a relighting of the Fiery Cross or the ringing of Christmas bells of peace and rejoicing. Possibly no more grim commentary upon the so-called civilisation of today could be instanced than that fact. Here we have a great city held up by a war between two classes, and in that war the contending classes are represented, on the one hand, by those who control the wealth, the capital, the armed forces and all the means of coercion; whilst, on the other hand, all that is represented is toiling men and women, with no assets except their brains and hands, and no powers except the power and capacity to suffer for a principle they esteem more valuable than life itself.

But to the side of this latter class has been drawn gradually as if by a magnet all the intellect, the soul and the spirit of the nation, all those who have learned to esteem the higher things of life, to value the spirit more than the matter.

Publicists of all kinds, philanthropists, literary men, lovers of their kind, poets, brilliant writers, artists, have all been conquered by the valiant heroism of the Dublin workers, have all been drawn within the ranks of the friends of the fighters of labour – all have succumbed to the magic charm of the unobtrusive men and women whose constancy amidst sufferings has made this fight possible. Whoever signs the document of settlement (if any is ever signed), whosoever is acclaimed as the great one of the treaty of peace (if there ever is a treaty of peace) the real heroes and conquerors are to be found in the shims, and in the prisons where men, women and girls have agonised and are agonising in order that their class may not lose one step it has gained in its upward toil to freedom.

These thoughts come crowding upon us as we write. We think also that, despite all the adhesion of all the brilliant ones and all those in the highest odour of sanctity to the cause of the workers, the settlement is still in the hands of those who control economic power. Poets, artists, authors, humanitarians and archbishops may plead and beg for the ringing of the bells of Christmas for ever. The final word still rests with those who control the money bags; and thus we learn, hard facts teaching us, that in this gross travesty of civilisation under which we live to-day neither soul nor brains is the equal of gold.

“The clinking of the silver dimes life's melody has marred,
And nature’s immemorial chimes are jangled, harsh and jarred.”

And so Dublin lies in the grip of the power of the purse; and on this fateful Friday the issue still hangs trembling. A few hours may determine whether the verdict will go forth for the joyous ringing of the Bells of Peace or for the militant call to all lovers of their kind to grasp and pass from hand to hand again the dread but inspiring Fiery Cross.


Last updated on 20.8.2003