Ruling By Fooling
From Irish Worker, 19 September 1914.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
The greatest strategic move by the British Forces this week took place, not on the fields of Belgium or France, but on the floor of the House of Commons. In that fortress the forces of the enemy are too firmly entrenched to fear defeat, and therefore their strategic move was crowned with brilliant success. The problem was not how to defeat a nation in arms battling for all that makes life worth living, but how to fool a nation without arms into becoming the accomplice of its oppressor. And the strategic move in question is already being hailed as a great landmark of national progress.
As the reader guesses I am alluding to the great debate on Home Rule, to the great fight between Home Rulers and Unionists and the dramatic march-out of Mr. Bonar Law and his followers. And as the reader must also guess I believe the whole thing to have been a carefully-staged pantomime to fool Nationalist Ireland. All the evidence points in that direction. Listen. To any reader of the Irish Worker who can point out any real difference between the proposal of Messrs. Asquith and Redmond on the one hand and that of Bonar Law and Carson on the other I will give the first brass farthing with their name upon it I find floating down the Liffey on a grindstone.
Now, Mr. Printer, will you please put the proposals of the two parties side by side that the readers might get an opportunity of judging them apart from the lying rant of the Party Press:
That the Home Rule Bill should not be put on the statute book until the end of the war, and should then be considered along with an Amending Bill.
That the Home Rule Bill should be put on the statute book, but “no steps taken to put it into practical operation” till the end of the war, when an Amending Bill will be passed to “alter, modify and qualify” its provision.
Again I ask, will some person tell me please what is the difference? There is none! What, then, was the reason for the great ‘scene’ in the House of Commons?
The reason, simpleton, why the reason is plain. When Carson consented to encourage his Volunteers to enlist in return for a promise on the part of the Government that the Home Rule Bill would be hung up high and dry he had to agree not to betray the fact of the compact to the public lest it destroy the chances of recruiting in the Nationalist district. And for the same reason it was necessary that the Tories who are delighted at Asquith’s surrender should pretend to be indignant. The scene in the House and the alleged disappointment of the Tories will be a great help to recruiting. Lord Crewe declared
“He was quite confident that when the Government of Ireland Bill had been placed on the Statute Book there would be a rush to enlist in the army on the part of the whole of Ireland. (Ministerial cheers).”
And the matchless leader of the Irish race, John E. Redmond, alluding to the recruiting mission of Mr. Asquith, hastened to hold out the same hopes of an inexhaustible supply of Irish food for powder. He said
“The Premier had announced that he was going to address a meeting in Dublin. Let him beg him to go soon. He hoped to have the honour to stand on the platform beside him, and he could promise him that he would have an enthusiastic response to his appeal.”
The great American humorist, Artemus Ward, declared during the American Civil War that he was prepared to sacrifice all his wife’s relations in the sacred cause of the American Union. Our leaders are better than that. They are prepared to sacrifice all the sons of the poor, and all the soul and honour of their nation for the deferred promise of a shadow of liberty.
And so the great scene in the House of Commons was but a fresh staging of the old game of treachery and intrigue making its own price with compromise and weakness. That is understandable, but that compromise and weakness should masquerade as patriotism and statesmanship is for Irishmen a humiliating confession.
Home Rule is postponed until after the war. After the war the game will be entirely in the hands of Sir Edward Carson, according to the following words of Mr. Asquith
“It might be said that those whom Sir Edward Carson represented had been put at a disadvantage by the patriotic action they had taken. The employment of force for what was called the ‘coercion of Ulster’ was an absolutely unthinkable thing. As far as he and his colleagues were concerned it was a thing which they would never countenance or consider.”
These words were a plain intimation to the Orange forces and their leader that if they stand firm they will win. A hint they are surely wise enough to take.
Meanwhile the official Home Rule press and all the local J.P.’s., publicans, land-grabbers, pawnbrokers and slum landlords who control the United Irish League will strain every nerve in an endeavour to recruit for England’s army, to send forth more thousands of Irishmen and boys to manure with their corpses the soil of a foreign country, to lose their lives and their souls in the work of murdering men who never harboured an evil thought of Irish men or women, to expend in the degradation of a friendly nation that magnificent Irish courage which a wiser patriotism might better employ in the liberation of their own.
Yes, ruling by fooling, is a great British art – with great Irish fools to practice on.
Last updated on 14.8.2003