The Hidden Connolly 14

Issue 14 in November 2002 published more articles by James Connolly which hadn’t been published since his execution.

Home Thrusts

[The Workers’ Republic, September 17 1898]

The Horse Show is past and gone, but it has left its mark behind it. Our own Lord Mayor of Dublin will “remember it with pride,” I understand, for did he not at that function shake hands with the representative of royalty?

Of course he did. But it is not true, as has been rumoured, that he has resolved never again to desecrate with soap and water the hand once honoured with the vice-regal grasp. The statement is totally without foundation.

But here is a statement even more startling and unfortunately true. It refers to no less a personage than the Mayor of Cork, who also attended the Horse Show.

There seems to have been quite a number of Mayors at the Horse Show. NB—This is not a pun.

Well, the Mayor of Cork attended in state whereat a Cork paper comments in the following fashion: “Had an invitation came voluntarily from the Royal Dublin Society there would be no objection, but it can hardly be said to have been very dignified on his part to send a request to that body soliciting permission to attend in state, nor was public appreciation of his action increased by the letter in which his secretary next morning hastened to inform the public that his lordship was escorted by a body of mounted police… There was too much of a suspicion of aspiring Vice-royalty about the whole business to be palatable.”

But I am not quite satisfied in my own mind that the Mayor of Cork should be held responsible for the toadyism of the Lord Mayor, especially when he has sins enough of his own to answer for.

Here, for instance, is a report from the Cork Daily Herald of a luncheon given by the New York Life Insurance Company, at which attended Mr P H Meade TC, Mayor of Cork; Mr Maurice Healy MP; Alderman Fitzgerald, and a few other patriots of the same peculiar brand. The first toast honoured by these fire-eaters was “Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen.” Hurroo for ’98.

Paragraph for the sporting papers. I hear that the Mayor of Cork has sent a challenge to the Lord Mayor of Dublin for a contest with him for the championship of Irish Phlunkeydom. Betting is even.

“While the lamp holds on to burn, even a Mayor may return.”

Somewhere or another I have heard that beautiful sentiment, and I now, with my wonted generosity, offer it free to Mr P H Meade, Mayor of Cork, and as a help to a better frame of mind I desire to quote for him the following beautiful sentiment also which I think he will require.

“He (Brian Dillon) was a man who had the courage of his convictions.” No loyal toast drinking for him, Mr Meade, eh. “He found in his day parliamentary agitation a farce,” just like now, O Mayor of Cork. Parlia­mentary agitation is a farce, and the parliamentarians low comedians. “That huge demonstration by the side of the monument erected to the memory of Brian Dillon showed that there in Cork the memories of the men of ’67 and their principles were revered and cherished” (what about that toast?) “and if the occasion arose the Corkmen who admired the noble and unselfish example of Brian Dillon would show to the world that Irish Nationality was not dead and would never be conquered.”1

Thim’s my sentiments, Paddy Meade, almost. You recognise the speech, no doubt. It was made by a man for whom you have a great regard, viz., yourself.

But what is meant by that curious phrase, “if the occasion arose”? What occasion? If by the “occasion” is meant the necessity for fighting for freedom, it is here now.

We are still slaves, nationally and socially; and the occasion is present ever and always, whenever we are men enough to rise to it. But the atmosphere of a country ripe for revolutionary action would be fatal to that peculiar kind of Mayoral patriotism which cannot withstand the seduction of any invitation to drink—even when the toast given is a dishonourable one.

Here let me work in a little Latin. Hold your breath. Facilis descensus Averni. The descent to the nether regions is easy.

It is only a small step from preaching a ‘union of all classes’ to kow-towing to royalty—and kicking the working man.

The Mayor of Cork is started on the down grade. After the festivities alluded to above one is not startled to read that on the occasion of the discussion in Cork Corporation, he gave his vote against the proposed night sittings of that body and therefore, as far as in him lay, against labour representation.

The tradesmen of Cork, recognising that the ‘right’ to sit on the Corporation is a mere farce if the ‘opportunity’ is denied to them, sought to get the time of Corporation business changed from mid-day to evening, that they might attend after work was done.

The voting on the proposal was evenly balanced, and the ‘un­compromising’ Mayor gave his casting vote against the workers.

So that the Tory government gave to the workers of Ireland a right which the Home Rule councillors deny them the opportunity to exercise.

Such is middle-class patriotism.

What will the Cork workers do? Sit quiet under it. I hope not. I hope to see the men of Cork teaching a much needed lesson to a few of these gentlemen who acted against them in the Cork Corporation. Let it once become a recognised principle in politics that any man acting in antagonism to the workers on any public question will never again receive a working­man’s vote, nor be tolerated in any organisation which the workers can influence, and politics will no longer be the fool’s game they are today.

In this connection it was interesting and instructive to observe how the Cork Constitution (newspaper champion of orange aristocracy and loyal West Britishism in general) rushed in to defend the Home Rule Mayor from the attacks of the Cork working men. These men see where their class interests lie, and are not in the least deceived by the sham politics of today.

While on the question of municipal politics, I cannot but express my deep regret at the foolish action of the Dublin Trades Council over the matter of the Lord Mayoralty.

In my view the proposal to invest a Tory with that office is indefensible and foolish. Except the criminal opposition of our Home Rule councillors to every proposal calculated to benefit the working class, it is the least defensible public act of recent years.

Toryism represents the most insulting form of privilege, national and social. The man who preaches toleration of Toryism is of necessity either a knave or a fool. Toryism ought not to be tolerated but extirpated, crushed out of public life wherever possible.

Our Home Rule leaders are now pretending to great indignation over the act of the Trades Council in coquetting with Toryism, but it was themselves set the example.

They wanted a ‘union of classes,’ and behold, here it is. Representatives of the trades proposing to elect a representative of the moneyed and aristocratic class as Lord Mayor; a veritable ‘union of classes.’ Presto, the trick is done.

A broad platform, my friends—the one thing needed for Irish politics. How do you like it?

The Trades Council say they are sick of the trickery of politics. Well, so am I. But when I am tired of a game I don’t rest myself by taking a hand in it. I get out.

We are not yet deprived of all choice between a Home Ruler and a Unionist—the devil and the deep blue sea.

Which is the devil and which the deep sea I don’t pretend to say. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

There is another alternative. Several of them in fact. The Socialist Republican party to which I belong aims at placing in every official position in the power of the Irish to bestow, a representative pledged to use the influence of that position in such a manner as to arouse the hatred of the people for our present governors.

Can the Trades Council not find in Dublin a thoroughgoing republican and class-conscious worker, and run him for the Lord Mayoralty.

One of their own number would fill the position quite as well, aye and a thousand times more creditably than either M’Coy or Tallon has done.

Let them run their candidates on the understanding that they support a republican worker for the Mayoralty, let them make every candidate in the city make a similar pledge, and either abstain or vote against him if he refuses, and when the election is over let all the elected candidates of what I might call the anti-tory party meet and decide who they shall support for the job.

That, I think, is practicable. At all events it would be better than voting for the open enemy of the freedom of your country and your class.

But the present course of action taken by the Trades is only playing into the hands of the Home Rule faction, and giving them the needed excuse for opposing the labour candidates. An excuse they are already grabbing at with joyful eagerness.

At a recent meeting of the Independent League,2 Mr William Field MP declared that that body were willing to debate the question of the wisdom of their tactics with any body in Ireland.

But he omitted to say what the tactics were. And as nobody outside the League has any idea, and as the Parnellite Press carefully suppressed that portion of Mr Field’s speech, it looks as if the challenge was only bluff.

Mr Field is, I believe, a thoroughly honest man, but I also believe he is being used by men of whom the same cannot be said.

He should remember that about a year ago, when the Independent League was launched, it was triumphantly declared that ‘Home Rule’ was to be thrown overboard and Repeal or Grattan’s Parliament substituted in its place.3 Mr Field MP and Mr Redmond and all his following joined in dis­crediting Home Rule and shouting for Repeal.

Now the same men are shouting for Home Rule, and Repeal is never mentioned.

There’s tactics for you. The tactics of a porker going to Cork by way of Garryowen.

Spailpín.

Regicide and Revolution

[The Workers’ Republic, September 17 1898]

As most of our readers are probably aware the Empress of Austria was assassinated in the streets of Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday last.

We deeply regret the untimely death of this lady as we would regret the untimely death of any other unoffending woman, but we cannot see any reason for the hysterics into which our daily papers are attempting to work their readers on the subject. A woman has been foully murdered. Stated thus simply the fact would arouse in all thinking men a righteous horror of the deed. But when column is piled upon column, when we are told “humanity stands aghast,” that the crime is “unparalleled,” that the “world is plunged in mourning,” etc., we begin to suspect the presence of more cant than sincerity in all this newspaper grief. When sailors are lost in rotten ships at sea, miners choked in the mine, labourers killed by falling machinery, women and girls poisoned in match works, etc., our friends on the capitalist press do not shed many tears over or devote many columns to the matter. Wherefore we conclude that these newspaper tears are shed for the Empress and not for the woman.

For our part we regard all human life as equally sacred, whether it be the life of an Empress or the life of a charwoman, and we have no desire to emulate our contemporaries in their attempt to magnify the horror of a crime because the victim belonged to the former rank of life rather than the latter. The deed was the deed of a madman, its perpetrator will be punished, in all probability with the utmost severity the law of Switzerland allows. Had we the power we certainly would not lift a finger to save him from or to modify that punishment, whatever it may be, but we can see nothing in the case to justify the outbreak of savagery to which our Dublin daily and evening papers are at present treating their readers. When we find ‘respect­able’ newspapers actually regretting that the barbarous tortures of the Middle Ages are no longer possible, indulging in fearful and disgusting recitals of the fiendish cruelties perpetrated in the name of Law upon regicides in the past, and openly wishing they could be revived, we feel that even the fear of being misrepresented would not justify us in keeping silent longer, in longer refraining from uttering a protest against this outburst of ferocity in those who are so fond of posing as guardians of public morals. The old Mosaic law demanded a life for a life, but our newspaper oracles, who at ordinary times are so fond of mouthing their devotion to the new dispensation which replaced the stern justice of the Mosaic code by the more merciful ethics of Christianity, would now surpass that code in the ferocity of their vengeance. A life for a life, it appears, may serve as a basis of justice among ordinary mortals, but the life of a crowned head must be hedged round with greater terrors, or else the masses of desperate and starv­ing people whom society creates in our midst cannot be kept in subjection. Here, then, we find the real reason of the outcry. The governing classes seek through Press, platform, and all other means to impress the public mind with the divinity of their persons, the ‘divinity’ which doth hedge their positions. A hundred working-class women are murdered in the streets of Milan—bayonetted and shot with their starving babes at their breasts;4 society grudges a paragraph in its newspapers to chronicle the fact; one Empress is stabbed in the streets of Geneva, and lo! Humanity is Shocked. Yet, perhaps the remorseless hand of history will reverse the procedure: give to that holocaust of the workers a dedicatory chapter as to the martyrs of humanity—and dismiss this murder of an Empress with the curtness of a footnote. As we progress toward a proper recognition of the dignity of humanity we lose the inculcated respect for the tinsel glory of a crown. Democracy is ever merciful and humane. The crime of a Luccessi is in no sense attributable to the revolutionary party in Europe, no more than the Phoenix Park murders were justly attributable to the Nationalist party in Ireland.5 The criminal passions which blazed out in Geneva last Saturday are nurtured and blossom only in the dark shadows cast by capitalist society and its financial and hereditary rulers. The present social and political order in Europe breeds such criminals. They are its children. Let them deal with each other.

We, who detest equally the criminal and the social order which creates him, work unceasingly for the coming of the day when an enlightened people by abolishing the latter will render impossible the former.

Notes

  1. Dillon fought in the Fenian uprising of 1867.
  2. An organisation representing the Redmondite faction of the Home Rule movement, still fragmented after Parnell’s downfall.
  3. Repeal of the Act of Union, and re-establishment of the Irish parliament that existed until then, involved a greater measure of autonomy for Ireland than that envisaged by Home Rule.
  4. Earlier in the year, workers demonstrating in Milan against food shortages and inflation were brutally attacked by troops.
  5. Luigi Luccheni was the actual name of the empress’s killer. In 1882 the colonial Chief Secretary and his deputy were killed in the Phoenix Park by a Fenian splinter group, the Invincibles.
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