Connolly: Notes On The Front

JC writings

By James Connolly

Recently we have been pondering deeply over the ties that bind this country to England. It is not a new theme for our thoughts; for long years we have carried on propaganda in Ireland pointing out how the strings of self-interest bound the capitalist and landlord classes to the Empire, and how it thus became a waste of time to appeal to those classes in the name of Irish patriotism.

We have said that the Working Class was the only class to whom the word ‘Empire’, and the things of which it was the symbol did not appeal. That to the propertied classes ‘Empire’ meant high dividends and financial security, whereas to the Working Class that meant only the things it was in rebellion against.

Therefore from the intelligent working class could alone come the revolutionary impulse.

Recently we have seen the spread of those ties of self-interest binding certain classes and individuals to the Empire – we have seen it spread to a most astonishing degree until its ramifications cover the island, like the spread of a foul disease.

It would be almost impossible to name a single class or section of the population not evilly affected by this social, political, and moral leprosy.

Beginning with our parliamentary representatives, we see men so poisoned by the evil association of parliament and enervated with the unwonted luxury of a salary much greater than they could ever hope to enjoy in private life, that they have instantly and completely abandoned all the traditions of their political party, and become the mouthpieces and defenders of an Imperial system their greatest leaders had never ceased to hold up to the scorn of the world.

We see the ties of self-interest so poisoning those men that they become the foulest slanderers and enemies of all who stand for that unfettered Ireland to which they also once pledged their heartiest allegiance. For the sake of £400 a year they become Imperialists; for the sake of large travelling expenses and luxurious living they become lying recruiters.

Corporation after corporation elected to administer our towns and cities neglect their proper business, and make their city halls and town halls the scene of attempts to stampede the youth and manhood of Ireland out of the country to die inglorious deaths in foreign fields. And while those young and middle-aged men perish afar off the mayors and councillors who sent them to their doom scramble for place and titles at the hands of a foreign tyrant. We hear of a Mayor in a Western city drawing £5 per week as a recruiter, and a Councillor in Dublin prostituting himself for a paltry 17/6 per week for the same dirty cause.

Between those two there are all sorts of grades and steps in infamy. The western Mayor is reckoned by his associates as having got a good price for his soul, whereas the Dublin councillor who sells himself for 17/6 per week is generally despised as having made a sorry trade.

One councillor gets one thing, his colleague gets another. One Dublin city councillor has hired a number of his derelict houses to the Government for munition factories at a tidy sum, another is assured of good contracts, another is promised a reversion of a good salaried position in a few months.

There is nobody in a representative position so mean that the British government will not pay some price for his Irish soul. Newspaper men sell their Irish souls for government advertisements paid for at a lavish rate, Professors sell their souls for salaries and expenses, clergymen sell theirs for jobs for their relatives, business men sell their souls and become recruiters lest they lose the custom of government officials. In all the grades of Irish society the only section that has not furnished even one apostate to the cause it had worked for in times of peace is that of the much hated and traduced militant Labour Leaders.

But if the Militant Labour Leaders of Ireland have not apostatised the same can not be said of the working class as a whole. It is with shame and sorrow we say it, but the evil influence upon large sections of the Irish Working Class of the bribes and promises of the enemy cannot be denied.

We know all that can be said in extenuation of their mistakes, all that we ourselves have said and will say in condonation and excuse of their lapses from the path of true patriotism. But when all is said and done the facts remain horrible and shameful to the last degree.

For the sake of a few paltry shillings per week thousands of Irish workers have sold their country in the hour of their country’s greatest need and greatest hope. For the sake of a few paltry shillings Separation Allowance thousands of Irish women have made life miserable for their husbands with entreaties to join the British Army. For the sake of a few paltry shillings Separation Allowance thousands of young Irish girls have rushed into matrimony with young Irish traitors who in full knowledge of the hopes of Nationalist Ireland had enlisted in the army that England keeps here to slaughter Irish patriots.

For what is the reason for the presence of the English army in this country? The sole reason for the presence of such soldiers in Dublin, in Ireland, is that they may be used to cut the throats of Irish men and women should we dare demand for Ireland what the British Government is pretending to fight for in Belgium.

For the sake of the Separation Allowance thousands of Irish men, women, and young girls have become accomplices of the British Government in this threatened crime against the true men and women of Ireland.

Like a poisonous ulcer this tie of self-interest has spread over Ireland corrupting and destroying all classes, from the Lord Mayor in his Mansion House to the poor boy and girl in the slum. Corrupting all hearts, destroying all friendships, poisoning all minds.

The British Government stands in the Market Places and streets of Ireland buying, buying, buying, buying the souls of the men and women, the boys and the girls, whom ambition, or greed, or passion, or vice, or poverty, or ignorance makes weak enough to listen to its seductions.

And yet the great heart of the nation remains true. Some day most of those deluded and misled brothers and sisters of ours will learn the truth, some day we will welcome them back to our arms purified and repentant of their errors.

Perhaps on that day the same evil passions the enemy has stirred up in so many of our Irish people will play havoc with his own hopes, and make more bitter and deadly the cup of his degradation and defeat.

But deep in the heart of Ireland has sunk the sense of the degradation wrought upon its people – our lost brothers and sisters – so deep and humiliating that no agency less potent than the red tide of war on Irish soil will ever be able to enable the Irish race to recover its self-respect, or establish its national dignity in the face of a world horrified and scandalised by what must seem to them our national apostasy.

Without the slightest trace of irreverence but in all due humility and awe we recognise that of us as of mankind before Calvary it may truly be said:

Without the Shedding of Blood there is no Redemption.

Originally published in Workers’ Republic 5th February 1916


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