By James Connolly
We should in this issue wish all our readers a “Happy New Year”. We do so wish them. But such a wish rings better when it is accompanied by a belief that the wish may be realised, and at the present moment the signs of a Happy New Year are none too plentiful.
Over all the world the shadow of war lies heavy on the hearts of every lover of humankind. Over a great part of the world war itself is daily taking its toll, and the gashed and mangled limbs of many thousands are daily scattered abroad, an affront to the sight of God and man. In the British Empire, of which we are unluckily a part, the ruling class has taken the opportunity provided by the war to make a deadly onslaught upon all the rights and liberties acquired by labour in a century of struggling; and found the leaders of labour as a rule only too ready to yield to the attack and surrender the position they ought to have given their lives to hold. Were the war to end tomorrow the working class of these islands would be immediately launched into a bitter fight to resist the attempt of the capitalist class to make permanent all the concessions the too pliant trade union leaders have been swindled into conceding upon the plea of war emergencies. In addition, the whole system of industry has been moulded anew in many of its most important branches. Division of labour has been pushed to an extent hitherto undreamed of. Women have been harnessed to the wheels of production in places and at operations hitherto performed solely by men – and so harnessed with none of the rights with which men safeguarded their positions – and the whole industrial population has been made accustomed to browbeating and driving from those set in authority.
The civil rights of the people have gone, and the ruling class has succeeded in so familiarising the multitude with thoughts of slaughter and bloodshed that the killing of workers on strike will no longer send even a thrill through the nation.
Peace will send home millions of men; will dislocate all industry so that those millions will find little employment and will thus be compelled to compete fiercely for work at any price. The terrible taxation caused by the war will send up and keep up the price of everything, whilst the misery of the returned soldier looking for work will hammer down wages.
Nationally Ireland has seen herself betrayed by one set of politicians, her children bartered for sale as hired assassins in the service of her ancient and present enemy. The coming year may see her still linked to that enemy once more at peace with the world, and the “Irish Nation” finally relegated to the mere status of a gallant tradition, as little useful politically as the Jacobite tradition is to Scotland. With England at peace that country will possess an army of at least one million men, veteran soldiers of the greatest war of all the ages, and when that time arrives the Irish question will trouble England as little as the rivalries of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
With an army of two veteran soldiers for every adult male in Ireland there will no longer be an Irish cause for any uneasiness to the rulers of the British Empire.
A happy new year! Ah, well! Our readers are, we hope, rebels in heart, and hence may rebel even at our own picture of the future. If that is so let us remind them that opportunities are for those who seize them, and that the coming year may be as bright as we choose to make it. We have sketched out the future as it awaits the slave who fears death more than slavery. For those who choose to advance to meet Fate determined to mould it to their purpose that future may be as bright as our picture is dark.
First published in Workers’ Republic on 1st January 1916.
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Jim Slaven tweets @JimSlaven