The report is a terrible indictment of the social conditions and civic administration of Dublin. Most of us have supposed ourselves to be familiar with the melancholy statistics of the Dublin slums.... We did not know that nearly 28,000 of our fellow-citizens live in dwellings which even the Corporation admits to be unfit for human habitation. We had suspected the difficulty of decent living in the slums; the report proves the impossibility of it. Nearly a third of our population so lives that from dawn to dark and from dark to dawn it is without cleanliness, privacy or self-respect; the sanitary conditions are revolting. Even the ordinary standard of savage morality can hardly be maintained. To condemn the young child to an upbringing in the Dublin slums is to condemn it to physical degradation and an appalling precocity in vice.The above quotation is from the Irish Times' comment upon the report of the Inquiry into Housing Conditions in Dublin issued during the last days of the great dispute of 1913-14. We reproduce it to-day because there is a danger that amid the clash of arms, and the spectacular magnificence of international war, the working class voters of Dublin may be dazzled or chloroformed into forgetfulness of the horrors, and the responsibility for the horrors, that lie around them and degrade and destroy many thousands of their lives. It is our duty to our own class, to our country, and to ourselves to see that the voters do not so forget, but that on the contrary they seize the opportunity given them by the elections to strike as hard a blow as they can at the system responsible for such atrocities, and at the political parties which uphold that system.
Of course, we will be told that "now in this supreme hour of our national danger", etc, all ideas of war between classes should be laid aside and we all should co-operate harmoniously together. In answer we would ask - Has any capitalist or landlord shown any forbearance towards the workers more than they have been compelled to by the force of law, or by the power of labour unions? Is it not the fact that "in this supreme hour of our national danger" the employers are seizing eagerly upon every pretext to reduce wages and victimise the workers? The great loyalist firm of Switzer and Co have enforced a severe cut in the wages of the employees in their drapery establishment, and their example has been followed all over the city and country. The firm of S.N. Robinson, coal importers, have cut down the carting rates for all government contracts, so that their drivers now receive from 2d to 6d per ton less for coal carted to government establishments than they are entitled to receive. The law says that all government contractors must pay the standard rate paid in their district, but this firm laughs at the law and steals their employees' wages. "In this supreme hour of our national danger" rents are going up, prices are steadily mounting to the sky, more and more men, women and girls are disemployed; more and more we see few workers compelled to do the work usually done by a greater number, and persistently as all the necessaries of life go up the wages of the labourer are relentlessly hammered down. "In this supreme hour of our national danger."
Nay, let the truth be told though the heavens fall! The greatest danger that we see at the present moment is that the whole brood of parasites and spongers upon Labour whom our past agitations have dragged into light, the vile crew who have waxed fat and wealthy by the robbery of Dublin's poor, the slum landlords of the vile and disease-laden Dublin tenements condemned alike by the laws of God and man, the sweaters whose speciality is the grinding down of women and girls, and all the unclean politicians, ward heelers and personators who have fastened upon the vitals of the working class - the greatest danger is that these enemies of their kind should succeed in escaping the public wrath under cover of the excitement and confusion of the war.
Therefore we cry aloud that all might hear: War or no war those slums must be swept out of existence; war or no war those slum landlords are greater enemies than all the "Huns" of Europe; war or no war our children must have decent homes to grow up in, decently equipped schools to attend, decent food whilst at school; streets, courts and hallways decently lighted at nights; war or no war the workers of Dublin should exert themselves first for the conquest of Dublin by those whose toil makes Dublin possible; war or no war the most sacred duty of the working class of Ireland is to seize every available opportunity to free itself from the ravenous maw of the capitalist system and to lay the foundations for the Co-operative Commonwealth - the Working Class Republic.
"In this supreme hour of our national danger", we call upon the Working Class of Ireland to remember that the only enemy it actually knows of is the enemy that lives upon its labour, that steals its wages, that rackrents its members, that oppresses its women and girl workers, that constantly seeks to encompass its social degradation. All the fleets and armies of the "alien enemy" are not as hurtful to our lives, as poisonous to our moral development, as destructive to our social well-being as any one street of tenement houses in the slums of Dublin.
The Municipal Elections are the most important things for the moment in the interest of our class. That the flag of the Dublin Labour Party should float victoriously over each of the seven wards it is contesting is more essential for the better interests of civilisation in this island than the planting of the flag of a robber empire upon the ramparts of some alien capital in Continental Europe.
Our call then is for Volunteers for this great fight to redeem Dublin from the hands of the capitalist barbarians.
Will Magnificent Dublin of the Workers magnificently respond?
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.