The Hidden Connolly 57

Issue 57 (September 2014) published more articles by James Connolly for the first time since his execution, this time discussing wartime recruitment, and how a socialist society would work.

Notes on the Front

[The Workers’ Republic, September 25 1915]

We reprint the following letter from the Dublin Daily Independent. It is a gem:

To the Editor, Irish Independent.
Sir,—
Being much astonished at seeing the statement “Jim Larkin astonishes the Americans” on the poster for the last issue of the Workers’ Republic, I purchased a copy, and was much interested to find how the redoubtable “Jim” had astonished the Americans.
It appears from a report quoted from an unnamed American Socialist paper that an immense crowd in Court House Park, in Fresno, California, listened to “Jim Larkin—a striking personality and a most enlightened and convincing speaker”.1
One cannot be surprised at the astonishment of the Americans when one finds that he stated: “My crime in my own country consisted of preaching solidarity. The workers said: ‘We will not move one wheel; and we won the Dublin strike.’” At such a statement the Dublin workmen will be even more astonished than the Americans.
No Influence
I have before me some letters from America which have something to say about Larkin, and may help to show how much the Americans are astonished by him.
From Chicago:
“We have heard of ‘Jim’ Larkin in several of our New England towns. At the present time he is not associated with any of the well-recognised organisations, and he has done nothing to draw public attention particularly to him.”
“While James Larkin has made a number of speeches I do not believe his influence has been at all marked.”
From New York:
“With respect to Larkin, none of our people here know anything about his movements in this country.”
From Kansas City:
“As regards Larkin, from what I am able to learn from better grade of Labour leaders, his movement is utterly un­successful. He has not been recognised by the better class of Labour leaders. The only impression he has made, if any at all, is with the IWWs,2 who are themselves thoroughly dis­credited by the general public, as well as by sensible Labour men.”
Such is the astonishment of the Americans.

Perplexed
Dublin, September 14, 1915.

The reader will observe that this letter writer, in making his attack on Larkin, does not give his own name, nor in quoting the opinions of his correspondents in America does he give their names. It is easy filling up space in that fashion, but is there anybody foolish enough to take stock in such anonymous stuff?

Following his example, we quote here some letters this office might have received from various quarters about William Martin Murphy and his friends:3

From Petrograd:
“We sadly missed Murphy’s trams in our recent brilliant advance backwards from Warsaw. Often when the German guns were booming in our ears we strained our eyes anxiously for the promised relief forces led by the commander from Dartry Hall.”4
From Gallipoli:
“The brilliant genius who organised the attack upon the people outside the Imperial Hotel5 is badly needed here. We were to be through the Dardanelles in March, but the military forces of the allies have as poor a footing in the peninsula as Murphy’s scabs have upon the port of Dublin. It is almost October, and the promised Expeditionary Force led by General Martin Murphy and ably captained by Tom McCormack, Barry, and Matty Long has not even sailed, and we are in despair.”
From Flanders:
“The Germans have just attacked us with great fury. They said they heard that we were eating Jacob’s biscuits.6 We sent for reinforcements to General Joffre,7 but he said that if the report was true he could not help us, that we must be a rotten lot. A German chemist taken prisoner said that eating Jacob’s biscuits is in violation of the Hague Convention, and a contra­vention of the rules of Civilised Warfare, as these biscuits were infected by the scab.”8
From South West Africa:
“Anxiously awaiting the arrival of the last tram from Dartry. We hear that Guinness’ Fleet have anchored outside of the Thirteenth Lock and threatened to throw a shell into Richmond Barracks,9 and that the Colonel in charge defiantly declared that he did not want a shell but could do with a couple of barrels. The last of the German forces here had strongly entrenched themselves, and were prepared to resist to the last cartridge, but gave up in despair when they heard that Lorcan Sherlock, Alderman Farrell, Alfie Byrne, Lord Mayor Gallagher, High Sheriff Scully, Shackleton of Lucan, J D Nugent, Wee Joe Devlin, and Paddy Meade of the Telegraph had joined the Pals Battalion, and were last seen advancing in skirmishing order upon Mooney’s pub.”10

That kind of thing is easy. As the Americans would say, “it is as easy as falling off a log”. Just try it and send in the result for publication in next week’s Republic. Just try your imagination and the result will be as trustworthy as the letter of the correspondent of the Independent, or as a Russian account of a victory.

We have pointed out in this page before that all sorts of people are engaged in hoodwinking the Censor under pretext of writing loyalist letters, and making loyalist speeches.11 Here is another sample of how the poor, dear man is being fooled. It is an account in the daily press of a recruiting meeting:

Ballybough Recruiting Meeting
Mr James Brady, Solicitor, presiding at a largely attended recruiting meeting held at the Tramway Terminus, Ballybough, last night, said he was accompanied by his son, Private Matt Brady, who came over with the Canadian contingent and had been through the battlefield of Flanders, and was there to ask his old pals in Dublin to help to rid Europe of the Germans. He was also accompanied by Lieutenant Maurice Healy, a member of a well-known Nationalist family, who had done good service to the country.12 Addresses were also delivered by Mr J C Percy JP, Private Bray, Private Trower, Professor Edmund Burke BA. Lieutenant M Healy, of the Dublin Fusiliers, said if the war were lost Great Britain and Ireland would be saddled with the cost, which would amount to twenty thousand millions, and represent a tax of £250 on every man, woman and child in Ireland.

Now if that is not rank treason I do not know what is. Lieutenant Healy said in effect that it would cost every man, woman and child in Ireland the sum of £250 if England lost the war and Ireland was left under the British Empire. If that is so then every man, woman and child in Ireland should leave no stone unturned to destroy the British Empire which would tax them each £250 for a war about which they were never consulted. Lieutenant Healy is trying to frighten the Irish people into hatred of England, for if you ask any sensible person in Ireland if he or she is willing to pay £250 for the privilege of being in the British Empire then that sensible person would surely answer that his or her share in the British Empire would be dear at the price.

When the average Irish workingman or woman is out looking for a job and can’t get it, their share of the British Empire would look very insignificant compared with £250, or, indeed, compared with a week’s rent for a room in a tenement.

We would advise Lieutenant Healy to run along and play at marbles or some other job suited to his intellect. And while he is looking for someone to play marbles with him, let him exercise his poor little brain upon this problem:

Over fifty women and girls have been dismissed by Williams and Woods13 in the interests of cheap labour. These women and girls are in danger of starvation. Can Lieutenant Healy tell a waiting world how the British or any other Empire can raise a tax of £250 each from these sisters of ours who do not possess two pence halfpenny.

Another returned hero at a recruiting meeting at Stillorgan gave his opinion of the national demand for Ireland for the Irish. Read:

Captain Frank Crozier, Royal Irish Fusiliers, who has returned wounded from the Dardanelles, said that he was proud to have joined the Army, where he found the best men in the world. Speaking of the fighting at Suvla Bay, Captain Crozier said that he saw one Irishman taking off his clothes on the beach. When asked whether he was going to bathe, he said, “It is something tickling my back.” The something was a big wound, but the man fought another two days before a bullet in the leg made it imperative for him to go to hospital. He had heard a lot about Ireland for the Irish, but there was a better cry in “Irish regiments for the Irish”. There were big gaps to be filled, and he wanted the men of Stillorgan and Foxrock to come back with him and carry rifles. They would never regret it.

Here you have condensed in a phrase the real loyalist opinion about Ireland and the position a kind providence allots to Irishmen.

Ireland for the Irish is ridiculous. Ireland for the classes who live on rent, profit and big Government sinecures and fat jobs, and Irishmen for the regiments recruited in Ireland to fight abroad for the above classes who plunder them at home, and insult them whilst doing so.

Captain Crozier is back from the Dardanelles. The published casualties there last week were 87,630, an enormously large pro­portion of which were Irish. What interest had these unfortunate countrymen of ours in the Dardanelles? What interest the people of Stillorgan and Foxrock? The unfortunate farm labourers around that district dare not join a trade union for fear of being dismissed, blacklisted, evicted and starved by the Croziers and their kind, and yet it is those poor slaves who dare not call their souls their own, who must cringe and crawl and lick the dust before their squireen employers, it is they who are asked to carry rifles, and add to the number of Irish corpses that manure the hills and ravines before the guns of the Turk.

Tommy Atkins14 does not talk of the Dardanelles. He calls it the “Garden of Hell”. And he is not far out. It is either a garden or a gateway.

Or a suicide club!

‘The Programme of Labour’[…]15

[The Workers’ Republic, February 12 1916]

comment by editor

In our editorial upon the meeting in the Trades Hall we said last week that the only points of difference between Father Laurence and ourselves seemed to be more matters of definition than of principle, and as we were more interested in satisfactory results than in definitions we would not press the points for discussion. But this correspondent seems determined that if we will not discuss definitions with Father Laurence we shall discuss them with him. Hence he labours the words “share equally” until he works himself into a sweat upon the matter, in conjuring up possible evils.

We still decline to waste our available space and time in such word-splitting. Our contention was and is that the entire people of the nation are the heir to all the nation’s resources, that those resources ought to be equally at the service of each and all to the extent to which they are able to avail themselves of such service, that physical or mental superiority does not entitle its possessor to the power to dominate or rule the weaker members (just as the stronger or brainier child in a family is not allowed to gorge itself before its brothers and sisters are allowed to the table) and that the ideal of the Labour Movement is a well ordered community in which the powers of the individual should be multiplied by all the powers of the organised community.

The problem is to find the social system by which that ideal can be secured. But it is a problem to ponder over and work out in the face of society, not a thing to quibble and wriggle around. Given the acceptance of the governing principle humanity will find the means to realise it. Or else humanity would not be worth saving.

Notes

  1. This report appeared on the front page of the Workers’ Republic for September 11.
  2. The Industrial Workers of the World.
  3. The following imaginary letters all come from battlefronts in the world war then raging.
  4. Home of Murphy.
  5. Bloody Sunday in O’Connell Street, 31 August 1913.
  6. Jacob’s took a leading role in the attack on the Dublin workers in 1913.
  7. Joseph Joffre, one of the leading generals in the French army.
  8. Among other things, the rules on the conduct of war laid down in the Hague Convention of 1899 forbid the use of poisonous substances.
  9. The British army’s Richmond Barracks at Inchicore was close to a lock on Dublin’s Grand Canal, used by Guinness to transport their wares, but Connolly is referring to a superstition that Lock 13 of the Royal Canal was unlucky.
  10. Sherlock, and before him J J Farrell, preceded James Gallagher as mayor of Dublin. Alderman Byrne was then the official home rule candidate in the Dublin Harbour by-election, which he won a week after this article appeared. James Scully was Dublin’s high sheriff. George Shackleton owned a flour mill and was to the fore in the 1913 lockout. Nugent had narrowly beaten the Labour candidate in the College Green by-election in June. Himself and Belfast MP Devlin led the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Meade edited Dublin’s pro-home rule Evening Telegraph. A company of the Dublin Fusiliers was nicknamed the ‘pals’ battalion’ after groups of friends and workmates enlisting.
  11. In the July 17 ‘Notes on the Front’ Connolly quoted a letter in support of army recruitment which also criticised social conditions in Ireland. This was a “distinctly treasonable idea”, wrote Connolly, and “the poor Censor was fooled… unable to observe the plotting of treason and inciting of seditious letters in the mansion of an Irish aristocrat”.
  12. Healy’s father, Maurice senior, was a nationalist MP, as was his uncle Timothy who represented the employers in the Board of Trade inquiry into the 1913 lockout.
  13. A confectionery company in central Dublin.
  14. A nickname for British soldiers.
  15. This was the title of Connolly’s editorial in the January 29 Workers’ Republic, in which he discussed a talk given by Father Laurence to Dublin trades’ council. Connolly argued that in society, as in a family, all members should share equally in the common resources (see Collected Works II, New Books 1988, p 366-8). Joseph Bailey wrote to the paper, objecting that natural differences in individuals would lead to different demands upon social resources, and so they couldn’t be shared equally. Connolly’s reply follows.