A Remonstrance Addressed to English Socialists
A few months ago we called attention in the columns of the Workers' Republic to the extraordinary utterances of certain English Socialists concerning the Home Rule party and its attitude towards Labour and Socialism. We pointed out that this Home Rule party was essentially a capitalist party, inspired solely by a consideration for capitalist interests, and that the few "Labour men" in that party were of the type of the Woods, Burts and Pickards of the English Liberal party - were baits to lure the workers on to the official party hook. We also expressed the opinion that the action of English Socialists in giving such commendatory notices to the enemies of the Irish Socialists was nothing short of treason to the International Labour movement. This remonstrance of ours has been as entirely disregarded as if it had been but the fulmination of a Liberal conference. That section of the English Socialists to whom we refer are apparently as ready to sacrifice the interests of the Irish Socialists to suit their party convenience as their English masters have always been to sacrifice Ireland to suit their class interests. The phrase "International Solidarity of Labour" which they mouth so glibly does not take in Ireland in its scope.
Have we no remedy? We have, and if the present remonstrance is as little heeded as the first we shall take that remedy into our own hands with results that we have no doubt will be somewhat disastrous to the election prospects of future ILP candidates in British constituencies where the Irish working class reside in any numbers. But first to explain the position. For some time past Mr Keir Hardie MP and his colleagues on the Labour Leader newspaper have been assiduously instilling into the minds of the British Socialists the belief that Mr John Redmond's Home Rule party are burning with enthusiasm for labour and are favourably inclined towards Socialism. (We beg our readers in Ireland not to laugh at this; we are not exaggerating the case one whit.) Mr Keir Hardie has appeared on the platform with the Home Rule MPs at Irish gatherings, has given his most unqualified praise to them at gatherings of his own party - praise as staunch Labour men, please mark! - and in his paper, the aforesaid Labour Leader, he and another writer signing himself "Marxian" have for the past few months left no stone unturned to imbue their readers with the belief that the Home Rule party are staunch democrats and socialistically inclined.
When Mr Keir Hardie was last in Parliament he on one occasion moved an amendment to an address to the throne - the amendment being in favour of finding work for the unemployed. The Home Rule members refused to support him. He moved an amendment to an address of congratulation on the birth of some royal baby, observing it should rather be a vote of condolence to the families of the Welsh miners who had just then been lost in a colliery disaster in Wales; the Home Rule members voted against him and in favour of royalty. The men who are leaders of the Home Rule party now, were the leaders of the party then also. This session they have voted in favour of several Labour measures, and Mr Hardie and his friends seek to make great capital of this fact. But, paradoxical as it may seem to say so, their vote is not cast in favour of these measures, but against the Unionist government which opposed them. Had a Home Rule government been in power in England and opposed these Labour measures, the Home Rule Irish party would have supported the government against Labour as they did in the past.
The present leader (?) of the Home Rule party, Mr John Redmond, is the gentleman who made himself notorious in Ireland by denouncing (at Rathfarnham) the agricultural labourers for forming a trade union. He is the gentleman who, when the Irish Working Class first got the Municipal franchise granted them in 1898, stumped this country asking the workers to vote for landlords to represent them - in order, he said, to show the English people that we would not make a revolutionary use of our power.
The Irish working class answered him by forming independent Labour Electoral organisations, and sending landlords and middle class Home Rulers alike about their business. Mr Keir Hardie praised them in the Labour Leader for doing so; he now praises as the leader of the Irish democracy the very man whose insidious advice they rightfully scorned.
Mr Tim Harrington MP, and Lord Mayor of Dublin by the intrigues of the Home Rulers, is the gentleman who is notorious for having declared that sixteen shillings a week was enough wages for any working man. He is also the gentleman who ousted from the Mayoral chair another Home Ruler, Lord Mayor Pile, whom he declared to be a traitor, and then became treasurer of a committee organised to present this "traitor" with a valuable testimonial for his services to the city.
One of the most highly placed men of the Executive of the United Irish League, the official Home Rule party, is Mr P. White, MP, who is well known to be the most detested employer of scab labour in the tailoring trade of the city of Dublin.
During last municipal election in Dublin the Home Rule party ran as candidate for the North City Ward one Alderman McCabe who had earned the detestation of every trade unionist by voting in favour of giving painting contracts to non union firms. Three Home Rule members of parliament, Messrs Tim Harrington, Pat O'Brien the Home Rule Whip, and Peter White were specially detailed to support this friend of blackleg labour against McLoughlin his Socialist opponent, although the latter had the unanimous endorsement of the Dublin Trades and Labour Council.
But have not the Home Rulers declared in favour of Labour, has not Mr Redmond at Westport declared the fight against landlordism in Ireland to be a "trade unionist fight"? The meaning of phrases can only be understood when you study the conditions out of which they arise. The Home Rule party in Ireland is today fighting for its very existence. The "scenes" in Parliament are but the distant echo of the fight made by the Home Rulers to regain the support of the Irish Democracy. Despite all the puffing and booming of the press, despite the lavish expenditure of money on bands and faked up demonstrations, the United Irish League has not caught on in Ireland, and has not forty sound branches in all the country. The intelligent Irish Working Class despise the politicians. When after the first Local Government election in Ireland the professional politicians saw that the Irish workers had turned their backs upon them they took alarm, and in order to sidetrack the Labour movement in the next two elections they ran bogus labour candidates on their tickets in opposition to the independent candidates ran by genuine Labour organisations. This fact involved two sets of rallying cries. The Home Rule politician's election cry in such contests was, "Nationality and Labour should go together"; that of the genuine Labour candidates was voiced by the then President of the Dublin Trades Council, Mr Leahy, when he said in reply that "Labour should stand alone." We need not insist upon asking which side English Socialists should agree with. Imagine then our surprise and amusement when we found such utterances as that of Mr Redmond at Westport, and the Home Rule rallying cry we have quoted, both in their essence piteous appeals to the Irish workers to return to the Home Rule fold to be shorn, reproduced in the Labour Leader and ILP speeches, as "magnificent utterances in favour of Labour". When an English Liberal says "we are fighting the cause of Labour", the ILP laughs him to scorn, and when an Irish Home Ruler says the same thing it is accepted as gospel truth. But not in Ireland, we know our men.
But we are told the Home Rulers are at least staunch democrats. So was Mr John Morley, yet Mr Keir Hardie made special efforts to defeat him at Newcastle because he was not sound enough on the Labour question. Staunch democrats! indeed, when they allowed an Irish National journal, the United Irishman, to be suppressed three times for its fight against the war, and refused to bring the matter up in the House of Commons, but made the world ring with denunciations when one of their own papers, the Irish People, was confiscated once.
We ask Mr Keir Hardie to consider these facts; we challenge any of his Home Rule friends to dispute either the statements of the inference drawn therefrom. We do not agree with Hardie's general policy, would most decidedly not adopt it as our own, but we believe in his honesty of purpose. We ask nothing from the English democracy but we do not wish to cross one another's path. We believe the Irish working class are strong enough and intelligent enough to fight their own battles and we would be the last to advise them to trust to outside help in the struggle that lies before them. We do not propose to criticise Hardie's voting alliance with the Home Rulers, but a voting alliance need not be accompanied by indiscriminate praise of your temporary allies.
Finally if this is not heeded we shall have to take other methods of enforcing attention to our protest.
We shall ask the editors of the various Socialist papers of Great Britain to publish the above, and we shall take their attitude towards that request as an indication of the strength of that international Solidarity of which we hear so much and see so little.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.