James Connolly


Notes on the Front


Workers’ Republic, 15 April 1916.
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.


Sydney Barker, the publisher of the Australian organ of the “Industrial Workers of the World”, has been fined £100, with the alternative of a year’s imprisonment with hard labour, for publishing statements likely to prejudice recruiting.

Thus we read in a Labour paper published in England. In a Labour paper published in Scotland we read confirmation of the news published in the capitalist dailies that about a dozen prominent members of the working class movement – trade unionists – have been seized in the middle of the night in Scotland, and deported without any form of trial.

In Ireland we see prominent organisers of the Irish Volunteers arrested and sentenced to deportation for feebly endeavouring to imitate Sir Edward Carson; we see newspapers raided and printing machinery seized by the military amid a chorus of approval from all the enemies of militarism; and in the rural districts we see every day arrests of men for passing the most ordinary comments upon the war.

Free speech and a free press no longer exists. The Rights of Labour have been suppressed; to strike is an offence against the law whenever the authorities choose to declare it so; and all over these countries bands of soldiers and sailors are being encouraged to invade and break up meetings of civilians.

Gradually the authorities have been making successful war upon every public right, gradually the mind of the unthinking has been accustomed to see without alarm the outraging of every constitutional liberty. That arbitrary exercise of power which two years ago would have evoked a storm of protest is now accepted with equanimity and even with approval.

Tyranny grows with what it feeds upon, and the slave soon grows accustomed to the bearing of chains which when first applied seemed worse than death itself. The state of these countries to-day is a sad proof of the truth of these maxims.

That brilliant revolutionist, Tom Mann, speaking at Sheffield said that

the termination of the war at this moment would result in serious disaster,

and that other trade union leader, Ben Tillett, has a constant job on the recruiting platform. These two men were before the war the greatest of internationalists, and rather despised our Irish love for our own nationality, as being mere sentimental slop and entirely out of date. Now they are raving jingoes, howling for the blood of every rival of the British capitalist class.

In the speech above mentioned Mr Tom Mann quoted some figures which serve to show the wonderful fight being made by the Germans against odds. He said that:

Official figures showed that the enemy had 19,800,000 men of military age. Russia alone had 19,719,000, and of these 10,000,000 had not been touched. The allies, excluding Britain, had 31,997,000.

Yet in spite of these enormous odds it is freely admitted by every competent military authority that the superiority lies undoubtedly with the forces of the Central Powers.

More than once we have pointed out this disparity of forces, more than once we have shown that Russia alone has a greater population than Austria and Germany combined, and therefore the fact that the German armies still remain immovably fixed on the soil of her enemies proves either of two things: Either the military forces of the Allies are hopelessly led by bungling incompetents. Or, the German Nation is incomparably superior to any nation in Europe.

But to read the accounts of the war published by the British press, and by the foresworn traitors who run in Ireland the pro-British press, one would imagine that the only real army on the field of battle was the British army, that the Germans were cowering in fear of a British attack, and that the French were in the rear of the British lines somewhere in France, and principally engaged in writing letters urging the British Tommies on.

An American writer, Irvin S. Cobb, writing a humorous sketch recently in the Saturday Evening Post, of Philadelphia, tells how he was interviewed by a bore who was an enthusiastic adherent of the Allies, and – but we will let him tell the story himself. In his Americanese he says:

He cruelly impaled me in the lance tips of his steely relentless glance, and while I wriggled in feeble agony demanded of me, as one intrepid Anglo-Saxon to another, whether I agreed with him that the Anglo-Saxon was waging a magnificent struggle for the liberties and civilization of the world. And if not, why not? Hearing him one got a mental picture of a small determined Anglo-Saxon licking, single-handed, practically all the rest of creation.

I might, I suppose, have told him that my Anglo-Saxon strain wouldn’t bear the acid test, some of my ancestors having been the kind of Anglo-Saxons who came from the North of Scotland and spoke Gaelic; and others were the kind of Anglo-Saxons who hailed from the South of Ireland and disliked any mention of the late Oliver Cromwell coming up in the course of social conversation.

I might have added that, after a cursory view of the situation, I was rather of the opinion that, in his struggle against the embattled foeman, the Anglo-Saxon, from time to time, was receiving some slight assistance from Frenchmen and Italians and Russians and Poles and Belgians and Japanese and Hindus and Sikhs and Ghurkas and Turcos and Canadians and Serbians and Australians and New Zealanders and Montenegrins and Algerians and Boers and South Africans and Americans – yes, quite a few Americans – and Celts and Slavs and Walloons, and various other allied branches of the Anglo-Saxon breed. But I didn’t.

I waited until he lowered his guard for a precious moment, and then I wrested myself free and fled, leaving him still rendering a favourite selection of airs on the Anglo-Saxophone.

In much the same way does the British and Redmondite press work to distort the news and to impress upon the mind of its readers a totally distorted view of events.

For instance there is one paper in Holland, the Telegraaf, owned and controlled by Englishmen, and when the Freeman’s Journal or the Irish Times wishes to make us believe that the people of Holland are enthusiastic for the Allies they always quote this English-owned paper, and nearly always ignore every other.

From Italy the only papers quoted are those that support the Government, the others are either ignored or misrepresented.

In America papers like the New York Sun, which even in normal times is notorious for its snobbery and devotion to English interests and its contempt for American, are the favourites to which the Freeman’s Journal turns when seeking American opinion on the war.

Even on the matter of the recent Irish Convention it is the editorials of this lickspittle journal that the Freeman’s Journal quotes to show the trend of Irish opinion upon this historic gathering. Never did the Sun in recent years show anything but contempt and hatred for all sincere Irish movements against English rule, but nevertheless on Monday, April 10, the Freeman’s Journal gravely cites the paper in question in the defence of John E. Redmond against the angry denunciations of the American Irish.

And so the tale goes on, ad infinitum, a carnival of tyranny, a saturnalia of military license, an orgy of well-paid falsehoods. These are the everyday accompaniments of present day British rule in Ireland, and in the world.

Well, we must endure it, we suppose. At any rate we are not leaving Dublin until the Whit Trade Union Congress at Sligo. After that if the worst comes to the worst we can take our courage in our hands and –



Last updated on 15.8.2003