James Connolly


Industrial Unity and Political Division in Ireland


Forward, 21 March 1914.
Republished in James Connolly: Selected Political Writings, (ed. Owen Dudley Edwards & Bernard Ransom), New York 1974.
The 3 paragraphs on partition appeared in the collection Ireland Upon the Dissecting Table, published by the Cork Workers’ Club.
Transcription & HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton, August 2007.

I have so often animadverted upon the manner in which the Transport Unions of Great Britain have scabbed upon the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in Dublin that I feel a real pleasure in being able to announce to the readers of Forward that a definite movement is now on foot among the same bodies to compel the proprietors of the Ulster Head Line of steamers to reinstate our members in Belfast and Dublin.

The fact that the weakness of our Union owing to the aforementioned scabbing taking place at the end of our struggle had enabled the Shipping Federation to reintroduce the Federation “slip” among the seamen and firemen upon the steamers in question served no doubt to emphasise the suicidal nature of the conduct I have complained of so bitterly.

The Scottish Union of Dock Labourers, whose Executive I interviewed on Friday, March 6, were the first to promise action, and the other Unions involved are now falling in line. As a result, I am glad to say that I see the probability of a speedy, successful ending of this particular phase of the struggle.

We had a recrudescence of police brutality in Dublin on Friday, March 13. A mass meeting of the unemployed was held in Beresford Place to demand that provision be made for supplying work to the unemployed. Several of the speakers pointed out that every possible hindrance had been put in the way of the men to prevent them registering their names in the Labour Exchange; that the great number of unemployed now in the city was quite abnormal, and was due principally to the number of scabs brought in by the employers during the dispute, and that there were various much-needed schemes of public improvement ready for commencement if the public Boards would only act.

At the conclusion of the Meeting, Captain White announced that he would lead a procession of the unemployed to the Mansion House. Gathering together about thirty of the younger ones he arrayed them in military order, furnishing them with long broom handles used by the stewards to marshal our processions, and the remainder of the crowd falling in behind started off to interview the Lord Mayor. They had not gone two hundred yards when a mail cart driver attempted to drive through the ranks at top speed. Captain White held up his stick to remonstrate with the driver, and in a moment there was a charge of police with batons striking like machines. The crowd was sent flying by the suddenness of the attack, five of the number who attempted resistance being stretched upon the ground, and Captain White arrested after being most unmercifully beaten. He made a fierce resistance, and the uniformed savages clubbed him until their arms must have ached. At present he has forty stitches in his head, and it was no fault of his assailants that his life was not taken.

The Liberal Government is making quite a record for itself as a Government by outrage and coercion. Its attacks upon the women, its brutality towards the men, its general attitude towards all progressive forces – when these forces are weak – have all the marks of a Government saturated with medieval ideas – a Government resolved to stamp out all opposition by carefully calculated exhibitions of brutality. The exhibition of the brutality in the most odious and shameless manner possible is an essential part of the scheme. Indeed, the scheme revolves around the idea that by brute force nakedly exercised, the ideas of progress may be frightened out of existence. Supposing that Captain White had committed an illegal act in impeding the progress of His Majesty’s mail, the fact remains that a summons to appear at the police court would have served all the requirements of the law. The Captain is not a fly-by-night, his residence is well known to the police; his standing is such that even on the lowest grounds it would not pay him to evade the law or disobey the summons.

But such a summons would necessarily result in a trial when the whole case would be argued out cold-bloodedly and strictly according to the legal aspects of the conduct of all parties concerned, i.e., the mail van driver, the Captain, the police. But when the arrest is preceded by an unprovoked baton charge, when such a baton charge necessarily would produce an attempt at resistance (since human beings have a natural objection to having their heads broken), then the police are compelled to exaggerate the importance of every incident, to represent a hand lifted in remonstrance as a hand lifted to strike, and to outswear everybody in order to secure a conviction. Then the press gets an opportunity, of which it is eager to take an advantage, to work up excitement upon the incident, and to make it the basis of an attack upon its opponents. Under such circumstances, a fair trial is impossible; it becomes imperative for all the forces of law and order to secure conviction, even by sheer forgery and intimidation.

The circumstances attending the arrest of Mrs. Pankhurst in Glasgow are another exemplification of the policy pursued by the Government in effecting arrests of this nature. No sane man but must admit that Mrs. Pankhurst could easily have been arrested outside the hall, but that would not have produced the terroristic effect aimed at. It was necessary for the purposes of the Government that the arrest should be carried out with every accompanying show of murderous brutality and reckless severity. That this brutality and severity was exercised against women was from the point of view of this Liberal Government rather fortunate than otherwise, since it demonstrated the perfect control over the coercive forces possessed by the capitalist class and its executive. When policemen can be safely relied upon to baton, kick and maltreat women, then it is certain that no mere striker can hope anything from their mercy, and therefore every such outrage is a training in cruelty for the forces upon which capitalism relies for its future defence.

Here in Ireland the proposal of the Government to consent to the partition of Ireland – the exclusion of certain counties in Ulster is causing a new line of cleavage. No one of the supporters of Home Rule accepts this proposal with anything like equanimity, but rather we are already hearing in Ulster rumours of a determination to resist it by all means. It is felt that the proposal to leave the Home Rule minority at the mercy of an ignorant majority with the evil record of the Orange party is a proposal that should never have been made, and that the establishment of such a scheme should be resisted with armed force if necessary.

Personally I entirely agree with those who think so; Belfast is bad enough as it is; what it would be under such rule the wildest imagination cannot conceive. Filled with the belief that they were after defeating the Imperial Government and the Nationalists combined, the Orangemen would have scant regards for the rights of the minority left at their mercy.

Such a scheme would destroy the Labour movement by disrupting it. It would perpetuate in a form aggravated in evil the discords now prevalent, and help the Home Rule and Orange capitalists and clerics to keep their rallying cries before the public as the political watchwords of the day. In short, it would make division more intense and confusion of ideas and parties more confounded.

Before closing this week, I wish to make a special appeal to readers of Forward for some financial help to enable us to pay some little strike pay to the victimised Dublin girls. Hundreds of these are starving; scores are forced to sleep on the floors of slum dwellings, already overcrowded by the families of the friends and acquaintances who give them this poor privilege, and who have themselves been victimised.

They are in dire need, and any sum forwarded for that purpose, and marked “For Victimised Girls”, will be applied exclusively to their aid. I have every confidence that the readers of Forward, who have laboured so splendidly in the past in this respect, will personally and by securing grants from their Unions come to the rescue now of those splendid, whole-hearted, and brave-souled daughters of Erin.


Last updated on 19.8.2007