James Connolly


The German or the British Empire?


From Workers’ Republic, 18 March 1916.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.

Nothing warms the cockles of my old heart so much as when some British Socialist kind-heartedly approves of my attitude – approves of it ‘except,’ ‘but,’ and ‘only for.’ Especially am I pleased when I learn from his letter that he has only read one copy of the Workers’ Republic, is only just arrived in Ireland, but nevertheless understands our position thoroughly, and is only filled with pity for the “sweet innocence” that inspires our little mistakes in such matters as a desire to vindicate the character of the enemies of the British capitalist Government.

Perhaps after he has been here as many years as he has been days he will begin to understand that the instinct of the slave to take sides with whoever is the enemy of his own particular slave-driver is a healthy instinct, and makes for freedom. That every Socialist who knows what he is talking about must be in favour of freedom of the seas, must desire that private property shall be immune from capture at sea during war, must realise that as long as any one nation dominates the water highways of the world neither peace nor free industrial development is possible for the world. If the capitalists of other nations desire the freedom of the seas for selfish reasons of their own that does not affect the matter. Every Socialist anxiously awaits and prays for that full development of the capitalist system which can alone make Socialism possible, but can only come into being by virtue of the efforts of the capitalists inspired by selfish reasons.

The German Empire is a homogeneous Empire of self-governing peoples; the British Empire is a heterogeneous collection in which a very small number of self-governing communities connive at the subjugation, by force, of a vast number of despotically ruled subject populations.

We do not wish to be ruled by either empire, but we certainly believe that the first named contains in germ more of the possibilities of freedom and civilisation than the latter.


Last updated on 15.8.2003