Issue 26 in November 2006 contained another article by James Connolly unavailable since his execution, in which he called for less philosophising and more fighting.
[The Harp, May 1909]
MAN OF IRELAND
Man of Ireland, heir of sorrow:
Wronged, insulted, scorned, opprest,
Wilt thou never see the morrow
When thy weary heart may rest.
Lift thine eyes, thou outraged creature,
Nay, look up! for Man thou art;
Man in form, in frame and feature,
Why not act Man’s Godlike part?
Round about the nations waking,
Every bond that bound them burst,
At the crystal fountain slaking
With parched lips, their fevered thirst.
Ignorance, the demon, fleeing,
Leaves unlocked the fount they sip,
Wilt thou not, thou wretched being,
Stoop and cool thy burning lip.
How applicable are these words of Denis Florence McCarthy to the Irish workers of America! As a fighter in the struggles of Labor on the economic field the Irish worker has had no superiors and few equals, but when it came to applying the lessons of class antagonism learned there to the field of political action, the Irish worker has not by any means kept abreast of his reputation.
He has not only failed to “act Man’s Godlike part”, but he has often been the mainstay of the system which in our day may be fittingly characterised as a forcing house for the crimes against God and Man in which the Evil One is supposed to delight.
Perhaps the reason is that in the Socialist movement, especially on the political platform, there has been far too much theorising, too much of a tendency to speculate, too great a fondness for philosophical disquisitions, and hence too great a proneness to forget that in the last analysis the whole concern of Socialism in the immediate present is with the workshop, and the struggles of the men and women therein.
I am wearied unto death listening to Socialist speeches and reading Socialist literature about materialism, and philosophy, and ethics, and sex, and embryology, and monogamy, and physiology, and monism, and platonism, and determinism from men to whom the more immediately important question of unionism is a sealed book.
And I suppose most other Irish workers got tired before I did. Unionism, the organisation of labor in the workshop, the robbery of labor here and now, and not the question of what influence the social organism of the future will have upon the minds, morals or theology of the race of the future are what the Irish worker is interested in. And I am inclined to think that in that respect he is not so different after all from the workmen of other races.
I am inclined to believe that when the working class really takes hold of the Socialist movement as a weapon in their industrial warfare, and ceases to regard it as a mere propaganda of idealism, they will make short work of the philosophers.
That will be a great day for Socialism, and a cold day for the theorists.
That is one reason I have always favored Industrial Unionism: I believe it will bring the Irish into the Socialist movement through the only gateway the Socialist philosophers have left unencumbered by their speculations, and the only gateway by which a political party of the working class can make its demands effective.
No study of philosophy will ever bring the Irish workers into the Socialist movement; when they come they will come as an incident of the struggle for better conditions, and therefore the closer the politics of Socialism is bound up with the daily struggles of labor for bread and butter the more Irish will be found in our movement. If I would give a slogan to the Socialist movement today it would be “Less philosophising, and more fighting.”
Apropos of the above I wish to quote a few striking passages from Wilshire’s Magazine for May. A writer, C E Jerome Beyer, writing on ‘Socialism and Catholicism’, points out the growth of Socialism in Chicago amongst Catholics as a result of discontent born of hunger. He says:—
The members of the hierarchy who are bending their efforts toward the suppression of Socialism have come into direct personal contact with it. Let that never be doubted for one moment. And they have come into contact with it within the confines of their own parishes. It is this silent, this unexpressed, this indeterminate Socialism, bred of the discontent of the laity, which is meeting with the strenuous opposition of those high in authority.
And this Socialism which the priesthood, not as a whole, but in individual cases, is so strenuously opposing is that unsentimental Socialism, which will at the last furnish the great driving power of the Socialist movement. It is the Socialism of hunger.
This subterranean Socialism may know nothing of Marx, as yet. It may be merely a half-hearted groping in the dark. But it is there; and it is one of the most tremendously significant things in the history of the Socialist movement.
And another thing must not be forgotten. That is, that there are members of the Catholic hierarchy who are able to weigh this movement at its full value, to determine its relation to the Church, to say how far it is economic and how far it is religious. These men have refrained from pounding their heads against a stone wall, or throwing themselves under the Juggernaut.
Here are a few of the beginnings. In St Cecelia’s parish school there are 805 school children. The population of the ward in which the parish is located may be gauged from that figure. In this parish, and the ward, while industrial, is almost wholly Catholic, there were polled at the last election 205 Socialist votes, and in that election the Socialist vote in Chicago was the smallest it has been in the last eight years.
The Socialist vote in the City of Chicago invariably exceeds the party membership by from three to ten to one. I venture the assertion, after more than one hundred conversations with Catholics who should know what they are talking about, that two thirds of this vote which does not come from the party membership is a Catholic vote.
This Socialism inside the Catholic church is not irreligious. In fact, it is profoundly religious. Some of the best men with whom I have spoken who declared they voted the Socialist ticket have been Catholics of the best type and deeply religious men.
The Harp is not a Catholic paper; it is an Irish paper and makes its appeal to Irishmen and women as such, and not on the grounds of religion, but as so many of our race are Catholics, we are naturally interested in such a statement as we have just quoted. It confirms our own position that at home or abroad the Irish Catholic, although he would die for a principle, would not live for it alone. He requires a more immediate, vital interest to sustain continued activity.
That to move him to action we need not so much a philosophy of the continued upward procession of the human race as the necessity for a combat to continue an unbroken procession of regular dinners.
When a man is hungry the most beautiful picture of human society in the future fades into unattractiveness compared with a beef stew around the corner.
Hence the coldness of the Irish in America (who are essentially of the class that often hungers) towards the Socialist movement compared with their enthusiasm in trade unionism.
And hence the failure that will attend every effort to keep them out of the Socialist Party once that party is realised to be on the political field the defender of their immediate material interests, as the union is on the economic.
The great strike of the French Postal and Telegraph Employees of Paris has shown the world the power of Labor when properly organised, has shown that an industrial union can of itself bring a modern capitalist government to surrender without firing a shot or building a barricade. It has answered the question so often put by the timid and doubter—Can the working class emancipate itself?—and answered it in the affirmative.
What wonder that the capitalists of the world tremble? Their mechanical majorities in the Chamber could vote down the demands of the Socialist members, but they could not set the wheels of industry going, deliver letters, nor send telegrams.
In the words of an eloquent article in The Flame, of Broken Hill, Australia,
This Unionism of ours is a Unionism that will march, unlike the Constitution of Carlyle’s French Revolution that would not march.1 Ours is a Unionism—New, but the embodiment of the best of the Old, and Newer yet to be—marching for the Cause that has come down the ages like a great river widening to the sea—marching forward valiantly, hopefully, powerfully to justice and freedom and peace and culture and love and honor. Our Unionism has marched, is marching, and will march.
The marching army of the peoples has tramped down through blood and fire. It has tramped down the mighty past through slavedom and serfdom into wagedom; through peasants’ risings, Feudalism, anti-landlordism, Chartism; through Cromwellian and American Wars of Independence, through French Revolution, Irish Insurrection, English-speaking agitation and tumult; through universal disturbance and turmoil.
All the social revolts and the revolutions of the working class have been forerunners of the modern Labor movement: only there is this difference, that the movement of the disinherited for justice has today taken on a more scientific aspect and knows with exactitude what it needs and deserves and how to accomplish its purposes. To this position has brought the persistent striving for that righteousness which will truly exalt the nations.
“Thim’s my sintimimts!”
Talking about that Australian paper reminds me of another thing. The early issues of The Harp had a few articles giving an account of the situation in India and speaking approvingly of the Coming Revolt in India against the British Empire.2 Recently when lecturing in Brooklyn I had in my audience a gentleman who told us that he was an Englishman, a tory, a landowner, and an English Churchman, and he endeavored to represent British Rule in India as a most beneficent affair. It was to me most interesting to listen to this member of an aristocratic ruling class conscientiously laboring to justify his class rule.
But I remembered that if he had had me to deal with in Ireland a hundred years ago he would not have argued with me except through the medium of a pitch-cap or the triangle, and if we had confronted each other in India today his reasoning would have been equally eloquent, and I would have remained behind prison bars to note its fine points.
In The Flame of March 6, I find the following testimony to the holy, “civilising” influences of the British in India which will perhaps serve to make my readers share my feelings towards that “abomination of desolation,” the British Empire.
The British Army in India recruit women for the purpose of harlotry with an almost brutal disregard for even the God of Appearance. On June 17th 1886, Sir F (now Lord) Roberts3 issued his “circular memorandum” addressed to general officers commanding divisions and districts. In it he says—
“In the regimental bazaars it is necessary to have a sufficient number of women; to take care that they are sufficiently attractive, and to provide them with proper houses.”
In furtherance of these instructions, the officers commanding the Connaught Rangers at Jullunder wrote to the assistant quartermaster as follows:
“The cantonment magistrate has already on more than one occasion been requested to obtain a number of younger and more attractive women, but with little or no success. He will be again appealed to. The Major-General commanding should invoke the aid of the local government by instructing the cantonment magistrates, whom they appoint, that they give all possible aid to commanding officers in procuring a sufficient number of young, attractive, and healthy women.”
Just imagine a magistrate acting as a procurer, at the instigation of commanders of our glorious ‘harmy’!
Let the readers of The Harp remember that the women who are thus demanded for the purpose of gratifying the lusts of the English soldiers are procured by seizing any decent, attractive native woman the cantonment magistrate thinks suitable for the purpose, and carrying them by force to the bazaar where they are kept until they grow old or diseased. Then they are thrown out to rot in the jungle.
When the British were introducing the opium trade into India they sent commissioners into the territory they thought suited for the cultivation of the poppy, and summoning all the ryots (peasant farmers) before them, these said commissioners compelled each to set aside as much of his land as the commissioners wanted for the culture of this accursed drug.
When the natives would not buy nor use the opium, the government spent a vast sum of money in giving it away free in order to cultivate among them a liking for it. The drug has ruined millions, body and soul, but it has brought a great revenue to the British Government, therefore “Rule Britannia.”
The Universe is about tired of this British Empire, and I for one hope that the natives of India will, ere long, drive it from their shores into the sea.
There was a time when Irishmen also would have made the attempt, but the weakening effects of the capitalist system upon the mind and morals of our once gallant race has done its work, and today the thought of Irish leaders (?) seems to fluctuate between the abortion of the “Constitution of ’82”, and that abortion of an abortion, Home Rule.4
The magnificent ideal of our forefathers, an Irish Republic, One and Indivisible, has today no resting place except in the heart of the unconquered Irish Working Class. But there it is safe and secure.
To conclude. Did you ever note the ignorance of the educated classes? Here is an instance of it. I quote from the Argonaut the following on ‘The Red Flag’, the Socialist hymn written by my old comrade, Jim Connell.
George Bernard Shaw recently aired his disregard for a new Socialist marching song, called ‘The Red Flag’. “That ignoble air will be the death of Socialism in England, if it is not sternly suppressed,” he said. “The composer, whoever he may be (and I don’t care if he is my best friend), can republish it as ‘The Funeral March of a Fried Eel’ if he likes, but let him take it out of our already sufficiently obstructed path—a tune so abject and depressing, so mean and commonplace, that the human spirit broke before three bars of it had blighted the welkin.” Unfortunately for Mr Shaw, the tune is from Mozart’s first mass, and is known and sung all over Germany under the name ‘O Tannenbaum’. It seems to be neither ignoble or depressing.
Unfortunately for the writer of that paragraph the tune is an old Irish Jacobite tune, called ‘The White Cockade’, was written and sung before Mozart was born, and its appearance in German as ‘O Tannenbaum’ is no doubt due to Mozart hearing it from some of the many Irish exiles of his time.
The author of ‘The Red Flag’ is a Tipperaryman by birth,5 and it is safe to say he heard the tune at many an Irish fireside before ever he heard of Mozart.
Thomas Davis wrote a fine song to the same tune, and it has always been a favorite in Ireland since its composition.
Talking about songs, does any of my readers know that the famous Southern hymn, ‘Maryland’, is also written to an old Irish air?
Faith, we are a fine body of men and women.
- Thomas Carlyle, in his history of the French revolution, expands on the theme of the constitution not marching: that France’s constitution proved unable to face the questions the revolution posed.
- Connolly’s ‘The Coming Revolt in India: Its political and social causes’ appeared in the first issues of The Harp, January and February 1908. It is reprinted in Selected Political Writings (London 1973), p 230-40.
- Roberts was commander-in-chief of the British army in India from 1885‑93, and held the same post in Ireland from 1895-9.
- In 1782, the British government conceded a fairly broad range of powers to the Irish parliament in domestic affairs. Restoring that situation was the official policy of Sinn Féin at this time. The various Home Rule Bills envisaged even less power for an Irish parliament.
- Connell was actually from Meath. While he wrote ‘The Red Flag’ to the tune of ‘The White Cockade’, it is sung to ‘O Tannenbaum’.