Some Perverted Battle Lines
From Irish Worker, 26 September 1914.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
Proofread by Chris Clayton, August 2007.
Nothing is more remarkable in this war than the manner in which the ruling class in the countries of the Triple Alliance have appropriated and used for their own purposes every phrase and rallying cry that their political opponents had coined against them. For years the Socialists have preached against war, and preached with such vehemence and argumentative persuasiveness that their anti-militarist campaign had profoundly influenced public opinion in Europe and raised hopes that the era of international blood-letting was past. Vain delusion! As soon as the capitalist class of England concluded that the time was ripe for the destruction of their German competitors, so far from finding the Peace campaign of the Socialists a hindrance it proceeded to use it as a useful asset in the militarist business. With perfectly fiendish and sardonic humour it took up the rallying cries of the Peace Party and used them as its very own. It called upon the Labour Parties, the Socialists, the humanitarians among the Liberals and Radicals to rally to the aid of the British army to “make war upon war,” to “put an end to militarism,” to “bring peace on earth and goodwill among men” at the point of British bayonets and to sweep German commerce of the seas as a preliminary to establishing brotherhood with the German peoples. With the honourable exceptions of the Independent Labour Party and the Socialist Labour Party, the organised and unorganised Labour advocates of Peace in Great Britain swallowed the bait and are now beating the war drums and hounding their brothers on to the butchery of their German comrades – and hounding them on with the cant of fraternity on their lips.
For a generation the French Government has made war upon the secular power of the Catholic Church in France. It abolished the Concordat between Church and State, made public property of the churches, did away with religious teaching in its schools, removed all religious emblems from its courts of law and public buildings, seized and auctioned off property the Church claimed as its own, and exercised its power with such relentlessness that many religious orders abandoned the country and removed themselves and all their belongings to Ireland, America, Belgium and other more friendly countries. Whether it was in its right or not is immaterial – the material point is that in its defence the Church through all its organs represented France as a Godless Atheistical country which God in His own good time would doubtless punish in order to avenge His persecuted faithful.
But when it became necessary to go to war with Germany, France joined England in raising a newspaper wail over the sufferings of “poor Catholic Belgium,” planted machine guns in the churches at Louvain and field artillery before the Cathedral at Rheims, and when the Germans in self-defence trained their own artillery upon these sacred buildings in order to destroy the French fire the resultant damage was made the basis of an allegation that the Germans were making war upon religion which the pious French Government were nobly defending. To aid this business of representing this French Government as noble crusaders in defence of the Catholic faith hundreds of little Belgium children have been deported to Great Britain and Ireland, and are now being scattered up and down the land so that Catholics may be moved by sympathy with their suffering to go out and fight for the French Government, which a few months ago they were being taught to curse in the name of Catholicity.
Just as the peace campaign in England became a weapon in the hands of the war party, so the Catholic propaganda in Ireland and England has been made a valuable tool in the services of the freethinking rulers of France.
The small conquered nations of Europe have in a thousand ways fought to propagate the idea of nationality, to emphasise the value of small nations and their special contributions to civilisation. Part and parcel of their propaganda has of necessity been directed against those two Empires which in Europe stand alone in the unenviable position of suppressing national existences and insisting upon small nations conforming to the mould in which these empires would cast them. But as soon as these two empires, England and Russia – the only two empires in Europe, we repeat, which do not respect the formation of small empires within their borders – as soon as England and Russia go to war they, with the effrontery of a Satan, raise the slogans of small nationalities as their battle cries, and call upon the world to admire them as the deliverers of the oppressed nations.
And to crown all we see Ireland, which for centuries has whined to Europe for relief against England, now being led by its elected leader to fight for England, that the British Empire might continue to keep its navy as a sword at the throat of Europe.
The irony of it all.
Last updated on 19.8.2007