James Connolly


Notes on the Front


Workers’ Republic, 16 October 1915].
Recently republished in Red Banner, No.6 (PO Box 6587, Dublin 6).
Transcription: Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

This week we give first place to an extract from an American writer, William Randolph Hearst. This newspaper man is proprietor of a great number of American daily papers which cover the entire American continent, and whose combined circulation runs into the millions. Yet we quote him not so much for what he is, as for the truth of what he says. He is speaking of the billion dollar loan from America to finance the war of the All Lies, and he warns the American money lenders that the people of Europe may repudiate the loan, and hang the kings and financiers who borrowed it. Read this warning:–

If any reader, accustomed to the sound and stable government of this country, believes that revolution is not now possible in any European State, let him ask himself frankly how long he believes the strong-bodied, stern-minded, plain people of Europe are going to endure the immeasurable misery of this unnatural war into the hellish depths of which they have been precipitated by the vanities and inanities, the enmities and jealousies of their arrogant and ambitious rulers.

Revolutions are not respectful of royalty, nor of constituted authority, nor of the established order. Revolutions are not regardful of the financial obligations of a deposed and discarded system. Revolutions exhibit no such soft and suave consideration for money and the money power as calm and conservative governments do.

The heads of plutocrats and aristocrats dropped side by side into the baskets on the Place de la Concorde from the impartial edge of the revolutionary guillotine. And so it may be that the tongues of the European statesmen and financiers, which so glibly guarantee this loan to-day, may loll mute in mouths eternally silent when the day of repayment arrives.

Strong language that, dear reader, but who shall say it is too strong.

Let us consider our case – the case of Ireland. Consider it, not impartially, but with hearts beating fiercely with anger against all the organised injustice that threatens our existence.

Impartiality in the face of injustice is the virtue of a slave, or of well-fed beneficiaries of the fruits of injustice. Thank God, we are not impartial.

What is our case? England is at war; because England is at war we are dragged into the conflict also. No, that is wrong! To be dragged into anything means that the person who drags goes in front. That is not our case. England does not go in front. No, we are pushed into war by people who stay behind in safety, or only pass on when the dead bodies of Irishmen have paved the way.

We are pushed into War. Consider what that means. For over 68 years the population of Ireland has been declining, the lifeblood of Ireland has been draining away. Whilst every European state has increased in population despite war and turmoil Ireland has gone steadily down the hill.

We have the most beautiful climate in the world, a climate which a wise national government could even improve by restoring the forests that once covered the island and broke the rainfall that comes in from the Atlantic ocean. We have a lively, quick minded, intelligent people, rich in soft kindliness, and graced with womanly beauty and manly vigour.

For centuries this people have been treated as outcasts in their own land, shut out from every chance of developing its resources, and ruled by an insolent class of land thieves and its followers.

A social system the worst in Europe held the people in its grasp, and punished as a crime every improvement their industry added to the soil. A political system based upon this landlordism governed the country, and under its rule every man of free spirit became a suspect, every hater of slavery walked a path hemmed in by prison cells and dominated by a gibbet.

Continued revolutionary action of the people upon the land destroyed the power of the evil social system, but it left behind it the system of government based upon hatred and fear of the Irish people. Forty-two Boards under the control of the British Government control every elected body in Ireland, and make a farce of free government.

Heartbroken in such a land where the amenities and gifts of life are reserved for those most sordid in soul, where the possession of public spirit damns the career of the possessor, the young men and women have been deserting her as life deserts the things of this world upon whom Death has set its seal.

But still the nation persisted in claiming its right to existence, in determinedly planning a future built upon those young people who remained. But suddenly like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky England rushes into war, and all the unclean things bred by seven centuries of corruption call upon Ireland from behind to rush to England’s side.

But what is the price of war – the price as it must be paid by a nation? That all the young and vigorous men go out to be killed, and all the unfit and diseased stay at home to be fathers of the next generation. All those splendidly developed young Irish men whose bones now lie mouldering beneath the soil in Flanders or upon the shores of the Dardanelles – all those physically perfect Irish men would in due course have been the husbands of young Irish women, the fathers of Irish children inheriting the vigour and virility of their parents.

But now those young Irish women are doomed to go husbandless through life, or to mate with the diseased and unfit who stayed at home, or the diseased and crippled who will return.

The perfect Irish children of perfect Irish parents will never be born. They who would have been their fathers lie dead in far off countries. Think of the colossal nature of this crime. The children of Ireland are being killed before they are born, the Irish race of the future denied an existence.

A competent English authority says that among the upper class of England there is not left one man of marriageable age for every twelve women of the same class, and that all the chances are against any girl between the ages of 19 and 22 ever getting married if she is not already engaged to someone in civil life.

It is safe to say that in Ireland amongst that section of the community who have yielded to the seductions of the recruiting sergeant the same is true. There are streets in Dublin, in the poorer quarters, where every family has lost a man, there are sections in the country where the toll of death has been so heavy that every man has gone.

Ever and anon we read in the press the gloating remark that out of such and such a village with a small population three-fourths or four-fifths of the men are at the front. It reads to us as the triumph yells of the old time pirates must have sounded as they exulted in the number of the slaves captured in a piratical raid, such as the historic Sack of Baltimore.

Upon the top of this sacrifice of the living comes the borrowing of money to continue the work of hell, and this borrowing means pawning the labour and genius of the future to the financial leeches and usurious money-lenders of Europe and America.

Generations yet unborn are to be taxed to pay for the blood madness of the rulers of this; our children and our children’s children are to be compelled to pay in sweat and blood and tears for our weakness in submitting to the criminal ambitions of our rulers.

We did not all submit, a fact for which such of the Irish as exist in the future will bless us. Every Irish man or woman who helped to persuade a young Irish man to abandon Ireland and go to Flanders or the Dardanelles helped at the same time to assassinate Ireland, to rob her of her future children, to stifle the coming generation before it was born.

And every man who kept such a man at home helped by doing so to preserve the race, to keep for Ireland and for humanity the fathers of the future generation. That generation, those children yet unborn are the heritors of our hopes, the heirs of all those holy things for which our poets sung, our soldiers fought, our martyrs died.

Who then can doubt the truth of the words of that American whose eloquent sentences are at the beginning of these Notes? Who can believe that the peoples of Europe in general, of Ireland in particular, will consent to pay the leeches whose money has made this war possible after having made it inevitable, will consent to pay in sweated labour after having paid in the blood of their bravest and best.

It is unthinkable! The people of Europe have held back from violence because bloodshed and armed strife had grown repulsive as a result of years of Socialist propaganda. The war madness has swept away that humanitarian feeling, and revealed our rulers as what they are – Monsters, red in tooth and claw.

Yes, Revolution is no longer unthinkable in Europe, its shadow already looms upon the horizon.


Last updated on 14.8.2003