Marx-Engels Correspondence 1869
Written: December 11, 1869;
Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Gesamtausgabe;
Translated: Donna Torr;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan in 1999;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.
As to the Irish question....The way I shall put forward the matter next Tuesday is this: that quite apart from all phrases about "international" and "humane" justice for Ireland – which are to be taken for granted in the International Council – it is in the direct and absolute interest of the English working class to get rid of their present connection with Ireland. And this is my most complete conviction, and for reasons which in part I cannot tell the English workers themselves. For a long time I believed that it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime by English working class ascendancy. I always expressed this point of view in the New York Tribune. Deeper study has now convinced me of the opposite. The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland. That is why the Irish question is so important for the social movement in general.
I have read a lot of Davies in extracts. The book itself I had only glanced through superficially in the Museum. So you would do me a service if you would copy out the passages relating to common property. You must get Curran's Speeches edited by Davies, (London, James Duffy, 22 Paternoster Row.) I meant to have given it you when you were in London. It is now circulating among the English members of the Central Council and God knows when I shall see it again. For the period 1779-80 (Union) it is of decisive importance, not only because of Curran's speeches (especially the legal ones; I consider Curran the only great advocate – people's advocate – of the eighteenth century and the noblest nature, while Grattan was a parliamentary rogue) but because you will find quoted there all the sources for the United Irishmen. This period is of the highest interest, scientifically and dramatically. Firstly, the foul doings of the English in 1588-89 repeated (and perhaps even intensified) in 1788-89. Secondly, it can be easily proved that there was a class movement in the Irish movement itself. Thirdly, the infamous policy of Pitt. Fourthly, which will annoy the English gentlemen very much, the proof that Ireland came to grief because, in fact, from a revolutionary standpoint, the Irish were too far advanced for the English Church and King mob, while on the other hand the English reaction in England had its roots (as in Cromwell's time) in the subjugation of Ireland. This period must be described in at least one chapter. John Bull in the pillory!... As to the present Irish movement, there are three important factors: (1) opposition to lawyers and trading politicians and blarney ; (2) opposition to the dictates of the priests, who (the superior ones) are traitors, as in O'Connell's time, from 1789-1800; (3) the agricultural labouring class beginning to come out against the farming class at the last meetings. (A similar phenomenon in 1795-1800.)
The rise of the Irishman was only due to the suppression of the Fenian press. For a long time it had been in opposition to Fenianism. Luby, etc., of the Irish People, etc., were educated men who treated religion as a bagatelle. The government put them in prison and then came the Pigotts and Co. The Irishman will only be anything until those people come out of prison again. It is aware of this although it is making political capital now by declaiming for the "felon-convicts."