We wish again to draw the attention of all thoughtful Labour men and women to the extraordinary attitude of the officials of the National Seamen's and Firemen's Union to the claims of their members in Ireland, and more especially in the port of Dublin.
As our readers are aware the seamen and firemen formerly engaged on the boats of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, upon being ordered, refused to take the boats to sea after they had been worked by clerks and others scabbing upon the dockers out on strike.
These men refused, that is to say, to scab upon their mates who were members of the Irish Transport Workers' Union. For this refusal the National officials of the Seamen's and Firemen's Union declined to grant them any strike allowance, and for many weeks they have been dependent upon Liberty Hall for their weekly pittance. Now we find that the seamen of the London boats are also on strike for an increase of wages, and again the officials of the Seamen's and Firemen's Union refuse to grant them any support. Is it not time again to ask our Seamen and Firemen brothers the simple question: For what reason do they pay into a Union that deserts them immediately they need its assistance?
A Union that appears to hate the name of any Irishman that still clings to Ireland.
We would respectfully submit to all the seamen and firemen whose domicile is in Ireland that experience has proven to them that they cannot expect any justice from the national officials of the Union in question.
We also respectfully submit to them that the experience of the whole Trade Union world teaches that Labour should be organised as Capital is organised, viz, upon an Industrial basis. That the seaman cannot win without the help of the docker, and the docker is immensely strengthened by having the support of the seaman. That as they are both serving the one employer in the one industry they should be both organised in the one Union.
The only possible alternative to that system of organisation is the amalgamation of all unions of general labour into one body, such as was contemplated in Great Britain before the outbreak of war stopped all possibilities of immediate progress upon sane lines. Such amalgamation would make it possible to reorganise all the constituent bodies upon industrial lines as we have indicated above, and at the same time avoid the danger of crossing the interests of unions now sectionally organised. Those unions being first amalgamated their sectional interests would be eliminated from the problem. But the application of that solution to the shipping industry was rendered impossible by the fact that Mr Havelock Wilson and his Union refused to join with a general labourers' organisation, and insisted upon remaining aloof as a sectional union.
As usual he preferred to play a lone hand, and to break up the labour ranks. It is only when he is in trouble that he remembers the principle of the Solidarity of Labour. At other times he only scoffs at it.
But his action in refusing to join an organisation that would have linked up the Seamen and Firemen in one Union with all the workers of the docks and harbours, and with the ranks of general labour everywhere, coupled with his persistent attacks upon the principle of solidarity in Ireland, clears the air sufficiently to permit of action being taken to properly deal with him. We believe that the Dublin seamen and firemen do not desire any longer to be members of such a strike breaker's union as the NS & FU is being made into. We believe that they wish to be enrolled in the ranks of organised Labour in Ireland, and to be a part of the militant movement of Labour in this country.
If they so desire, if we are correct in our estimate of their aspirations, we submit to them that it is time they took steps to organise a Seafarers' Section of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union. Such a section should be open to all seafarers whose domicile is in Ireland. Linked up with the dock labourers as they would be their interests would be at once identical, and the motto, "Each for All, and All for Each", would become a reality, having immense influence upon their industrial progress. We are confident that we could secure recognition of their membership card in all the ports of the world, and that the new departure would mean a gain rather than a loss to those who prefer the deep sea boats.
We have been patiently watching the rake's progress of the NS and FU in its despicable attitude to its Irish branches. We believe that the time has come for the Irish seafarers to do what the Irish Dockers have done so well for themselves under our banner, viz, throw their lot together in an Irish organization, and by so doing increase their power as well as the power of the shore workers and thus unitedly to form a force that would set the fighting pace for the Labour Movement of all the world.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.