James Connolly




From Workers’ Republic, November 6, 1915.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.

What is diplomacy? It is the name for the business of conducting the relations between governments. Whatever has to do with the conduct of international relations is diplomatic, and the art of conducting the correspondence and of adjusting those relations is diplomacy.

Now, do you understand? The language in which all diplomats carry on the business throughout the world is French, just as the predominant language in which trade was conducted internationally until recently was English.

The nations, that is to say, robbed each other in English, and fooled each other in French.

The English have acquired somehow the reputation of being blunt, business-like people, with a frank, open nature, whereas the history of their dealings with other people show them to have been the shrewdest masters of the diplomatic game the world has ever seen.

In Ireland, as their own State Papers frankly declare, they employed forgery, bribery, and murder as part of their daily weapons for the subjugation of the country; in India their own chief apologist, Lord Macaulay, records that Lord Clive, the founder of their Indian Empire, forged the name of an Indian patriot to serve the interests of the Empire, and Warren Hastings, when put on trial for extortion, blackmail, bribery, torture, wholesale plunder, invasion and conquest of neutral states, was proven guilty but let off scot free on the grounds that he had indulged in those crimes for the good of the Empire.

In Europe the same guileless John Bull has assiduously kept stirring the pot of international hatreds and jealousies, pitting nations against nations, and ever fanning the embers of war into consuming flames. Sometimes he supported subject nations against their tyrants, sometimes despots against their struggling subjects, sometimes preached the doctrine of national rights, sometimes (as at the Congress of Vienna, 1815) acted the part of the chief criminal in dividing and parcelling out ancient nations. Ready to fly to arms to defend the rights of neutrals, still more ready to trample roughshod over neutral rights when it served his purpose; ever appealing to God and the Bible, and always convinced that crimes committed by John Bull became virtues, and virtuous acts by his enemies became blasphemous mockeries of the Most High.

British Diplomacy is hypocrisy incarnate, but as every false prophet comes in odd moments to believe in the truth of his false doctrine, so John Bull finds Englishmen to honestly believe that which their rulers unctuously pretend. Hence we have the phenomenon of the same section of the English people which honestly denounced their Government's action in betraying Persia to the Russians, quite as honestly believing in the action of the same Government when it cries out against the invasion of Belgium.

Cynical onlookers might say that the rape and betrayal of Persia was regarded as a harmless joke because it was done by England’s ally, but the invasion of Belgium was a monstrous crime because it was done by England’s enemy.

Even if that were true it would not affect the case. Diplomacy has a code of honour of its own, has a standard by which it tests all things. That code has no necessary relation to the moral code, that standard has nothing to do with the righteousness of any cause.

The diplomat holds all acts honourable which bring him success, all things are righteous which serve his ends. If cheating is necessary, he will cheat; if lying is useful, he will lie; if bribery helps, he will bribe; if murder serves, he will order murder; if burglary, seduction, arson or forgery brings success nearer, all and each of these will be done.

And through it all the diplomat will remain the soul of honour - a perfect English gentleman.

You remember the Morocco case. England, France, and Spain were engaged in a sweet little plundering expedition to Morocco. Germany thought her interests were being overlooked, and sent a gunboat. There was nearly a war. Then England, France and Spain made a treaty, oh, a fine chivalrous, noble treaty! They agreed to maintain, respect and guarantee the independence of Morocco. And they showed that treaty to Germany, and Germany was satisfied.

But there were secret clauses of that treaty which they did not show to Germany. These secret clauses bound the signatories to the treaty to divide up and annex the country whose independence the public clauses of the treaty had pledged them to safeguard. They did not show these secret clauses to Germany. Oh, no! But Germany found out about them, and there would have been war but for the fact that the Germans, though great soldiers, are rotten diplomats.

Just imagine the situation. When your grocer sells you sand over the counter for sugar he is a swindler, and you send him to jail unless he escapes into the Corporation and becomes an Alderman.

But when the representatives of certain European countries sit down at the table with those of another, show them the text of a treaty, solemnly assuring them that it is a correct copy, whilst all the time they have in their pockets a totally different treaty with clauses entirely opposed to the copy shown, the swindling representatives are held in high honour by their governments because it is good diplomacy.

We had the same game here in Ireland. The Irish public have been shown a copy of a Home Rule Bill, and Sir Edward Carson has in his pocket a copy of an Amending Bill which will destroy the Home Rule Bill – said Amending Bill having been agreed upon by the same English statesmen who prepared the Bill it is to destroy.

That is diplomacy. And the act of those who pin their faith to the Home Rule Act and ignore the Amending Bill is – well, foolery.

We have said the Germans are rotten diplomats. It sounds strong, and in view of the espousal of their cause by so many nations in Europe it may seem foolish. But it is cold fact. The German victories, not excepting the adhesion of Turkey and Bulgaria, have been military victories, or due to their unquestioned military superiority on the field of battle.

Every dispassionate onlooker in Europe recognises certain facts. They see that no one of the Allies could stand up a day against Germany, if isolated from the others.

To put it in the language of a labour dispute: If Germany struck against Russia the strike would only last a day, and work would be resumed the next morning on German terms; if Germany struck against France the dispute might drag out till dinner time, but if the strike was only against Great Britain the fight would be over by breakfast time, and the German workmen would be able to finish a three-quarter day after the row was over.

Now observe. The onlookers know that the alliance against Germany cannot last, but must break up as it is made up of so many discordant elements. It is unnatural, and whether it last a year, or three years, or ten years is immaterial, break up it will.

On the other hand, Germany is the one solid factor that must last, which cannot break up, which nature will hold together. Victorious or defeated, Germany will keep together; victorious or defeated, the Allies will break up – and probably quarrel amongst themselves.

Common sense then sends the neutral nations to Germany’s side, and despite the magnificent lying of the daily press there they will remain. Or to put it in another way. The most magnificent military force in the war is the one that by nature will remain a constant undivided factor in the future, and on the other side is an impotent military force under different commands, with divided allegiances, and with divergent interests.

Who could hesitate? No, the victories of Germany are military victories, not diplomatic ones. If Germany had to depend on her diplomacy she would be defeated. She had one great chance to declare war with the public opinion of Europe on her side, and with the sympathies of Ireland so enlisted, that not all the lying press nor crawling parliamentarians could have turned this country against her.

That chance came when the Mail boats for America ceased to call at Queenstown. Certain patriotic Irishmen persuaded a German steamship company – The Hamburg-America line we believe – to announce that it was about to make Queenstown a port of call so that Ireland would still maintain her communication with America. Everything was ready, and all Ireland was excited over the prospect. But British diplomacy stepped in and intimated to the German government that it would consider it an unfriendly act if the company in question sent in its boats to Ireland.

The German Government gave orders for the arrangements to be cancelled, and Ireland was once more shut out from all regular foreign intercourse, and its people restricted to the necessity of going to England when they wanted to go somewhere else – of going east when they wanted to go west, north, or south.

If Germany had not been a bungling fool at diplomacy it would have fought on that question – fought on the right to assist the people of Ireland, to trade with the people of Ireland to carry goods to and from the people of Ireland. But the peace-loving German Emperor shrank from the quarrel, not realising that from that moment every agency in the British Government was alert to seize every opportunity to precipitate a quarrel upon some point not so dangerously appealing to Irish sympathies for German arms as a quarrel over Queenstown would have been.

The pretext for this war is a real humiliation for German diplomacy, as real as the war itself is a triumph for German arms. German arms will win this war, but we would not be surprised to see British diplomacy pluck the fruits of victory from the dust of military defeat. Ireland and Ireland alone could prevent that, but Ireland has the brand of the slave on her brow-numbing fear of the tyrant in her soul. “The British Ambassadors at Paris,” said Andrew Jackson after the war of 1812, “threw dust in the eyes of our United States envoys, but they could not throw dust in the eyes of my Texas riflemen at New Orleans.”

Can Ireland burst through the wiles of British diplomacy in like manner? Who shall answer?


Last updated on 15.8.2003