James Connolly


Notes on the Front


Workers’ Republic, 2 October 1915.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.
The notes, which are © 1997 Pluto Press, have not been included.
HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Now, everyone has a chance to be happy! All we have to do to support the Government in its prosecution of the war for Civilisation and Small Nationalities is to continue eating, drinking and smoking as usual.


The poor old mother, worn out by a lifetime of toil amid misery and wretchedness, need no longer weep bitter tears over her inability to help the war against the Huns. The kind British Government comes to her aid, and enables her to contribute to the successful prosecution of the war without moving from her seat in the corner at the fire. Every time her son or grandson, daughter or granddaughter, wish to give her a cup of tea the kind British Government steps in and forbids the Christian act until they have first paid over to that Government a tax to enable it to buy something to kill Germans.


Your mother may be dying for want of a cup of tea to cheer her old age, your child may be in the last agonies of fever or ague, and fainting for a warm drink, your wife may long for a cheering cup to soothe her nerves after a day of trouble and sickness – no matter. The Government will forbid you doing your duty to these sufferers until you first enable it to push on the work of killing Germans – and pay the extra duty on the tea.


Your old father may be passing away and longing for a smoke to ease his last days, but he cannot get a smoke of tobacco until you pay the Government the extra tax to enable it to carry on the war. You may hate the war, and believe it to be a product of hell – conceived in sin, and begotten in iniquity – but pay for it you must before you can get a smoke, or the old father ‘get a blast of the pipe’.


The food of the poor is taxed to pay for the wars of the rich. The tax that will be put upon the working man and woman will be equal to an increase of at least 6/8 in the £ in prices, and on many articles equal to 10/- in the £. This means that the wages of the working class will be reduced one third at least, and in some cases one half.


How can we pay it? Already the working class is staggering under the heavy prices put on all the necessaries of life since the beginning of the war; already the war has meant less food on our tables; less clothes on our backs; less coal on our fires; less boots on our own or our children’s feet. More taxes on food means more starvation, more nakedness, more wretchedness and general misery. The working class has seen its best blood driven into the army by the compulsion of hunger and the threat of hunger, now it is to see the miserable relatives of those recruits and reservists, and those defiant ones who refused to be either driven or fooled, alike compelled to pay for the war in hunger and suffering by a tax upon its necessaries of life.


Up and down Ireland on every Monday morning there is to be seen outside the Post Office the spectacle of Irish wives and mothers and children standing patiently in line like criminals, waiting for the receipt of the blood money which the British Government allows them in return for the limbs and lives of their husbands, sons or fathers. Some have given the limbs and lives of their nearest and dearest with sorrow and reluctance, some with bitter protests and unavailing tears, a few with willingness and drunken joy, but the Government now reaches out its hand and takes back from all alike half of its blood money by a tax upon the food these poor people must buy in order to live.

The tax upon the food of the poor is equal to an increased tax of fifty per cent. Yet what a howl would go up if it were proposed to tax the rich with a fifty per cent tax. As it is the increased income tax will still not represent one tenth part of the income of a rich man, whilst the increased prices which will follow the tax on food will undoubtedly mean the loss to the worker of at least one half of his weekly income. In other words, it will soon take One Pound to buy the same necessaries of life as could have been bought for ten shillings before the war.

The purchasing power of your wages will be cut in half.


Hurrah for the Budget. I don’t think.

From the Huddersfield Worker we take the following parable written during the American Civil War by America’s famous humorist, Artemus Ward. It reads as if it were written yesterday:




“No, William Barker, you cannot have my daughter’s hand in marriage until you are her equal in wealth and social position.”

The speaker was a haughty old man of some sixty years, and the person whom he addressed was a fine looking young man of twenty-five.

With a sad aspect the young man withdrew from the stately mansion.


Six months later the young man stood in the presence of the haughty old man.

“What! YOU here again,” angrily cried the old man.

“Aye, old man,” proudly exclaimed William Barker, “I am here, your daughter’s equal and yours!”

The old man’s lips curled with scorn. A derisive smile lit up his cold features; when, casting upon the marble centre table an enormous roll of dollar greenbacks, William Barker cried:

“See! Look on this wealth. And I’ve tenfold more! Listen, old man! You spurned me from your door. But I did not despair. I secured a contract for furnishing the Army of the – with beef –”

“Yes, yes!” eagerly exclaimed the old man.

“– and I bought up all the disabled cavalry horses I could find –”

“I see, I see!” cried the old man. “And good beef they make, too.”

“They do! they do! and the profits are immense.”

“I should say so!”

“And now, sir, I claim your daughter’s fair hand!”

“Boy, she is yours. But hold! Look me in the eye. Throughout all this have you been loyal?”

“To the core!” cried William Barker.

“And,” continued the old man, in a voice husky with emotion, “are you in favour of a vigorous prosecution of the war?”

“I am! I am!”

“Then boy, take her! Maria, child, come hither. Your William claims thee. Be happy, my children! And whatever our lot in life may be, LET US ALL SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT!”

That sounds home-like, does it not? We have a good many jingo patriots here (save the mark) who are making a fortune in the same way, and of course howling for the war as long as it pays them a good thumping profit.

The Americans coined the phrase to describe the Civil War that it was:


It was a good phrase, terse and descriptive. But are all wars not rich men’s wars, in the sense that they are made for the profit of the rich, and poor men’s fights in the sense that it is the blood of the poor that is spilt in them all?

But some day the sons of the poor will determine to fight only in their own interest, and against All the Ruling Thieves of Civilisation.

And then –

The proud throne shall crumble,
The diadem shall wave,
The Tribes of Earth shall humble
The pride of those who reign.
And war shall lay its pomp away
The fame which heroes cherish,
And glory born in bloody fray
Shall fade, decay and perish.


Last updated on 14.8.2003