A Dublin Comrade once
to the writer of these notes that as two things cannot occupy the same
the same time, so the mind of the working class cannot take up two
items at the
same time. Meaning thereby that when that working class is obsessed
visions of glory, patriotism, war, loyalty or political or religious
it can find no room in its mind for considerations of its own interests
Somewhere upon these
be found the explanation of the fact that whereas Dublin and
Ireland generally is seething with rebellion against industrial
manifesting that rebellion by a crop of strikes, in Belfast and the
dominated by the loyalist element, class feeling or industrial
discontent is at
present scarcely manifested at all.
For Dublin and its
allies, the Home Rule question has long gone beyond the stage of
it is regarded as out of the region of dispute and consequently the
mind of the
working class is no more excited over that question than
it can be considered to be excited over the general
proposition that the whole is greater than its parts.
In North-East Ulster,
other hand, the question of Home Rule is not a settled question in
much less settled politically, and hence its unsettled character makes
possible for that question to so possess the minds of the multitude
other questions such as wages, hours and conditions of labour, must
subordinate place and lose their power to attract attention, much less
According to all
theories North-East Ulster, being the most developed industrially, ought to be the
which class lines of cleavage, politically and industrially, should be
pronounced and class rebellion the most common.
As a cold matter of
fact, it is
the happy hunting ground of the slave-driver and the home of the least
rebellious slaves in the industrial world.
Dublin, on the other hand, has more strongly developed
feeling, more strongly accentuated instincts of loyalty to the working
than any city of its size in the globe.
I have explained
before how the
perfectly devilish ingenuity of the master class had sought its ends in
How the lands
were stolen from Catholics, given to Episcopalians, but planted by
Presbyterians; how the latter were persecuted by the Government, but
avoid the necessity of defending it against the Catholics, and how out
complicated situation there inevitably grew up a feeling of common
between the slaves and the slave-drivers.
As the march of the
towards emancipation developed, as step by step they secured more and
political rights and greater and greater recognition, so in like ratio
disabilities of the Presbyterians and other dissenters were abolished.
For a brief period
closing years of the eighteenth century, it did indeed seem probable
common disabilities of Presbyterians and Catholics would unite them all
the common name of Irishmen. Hence the rebel society of that time took
significant name of `United Irishmen'.
But the removal of the
disabilities from the dissenting community had, as its effect, the
of all political difference between the sects and their practical
unity under the common designation of Protestants, as against the
upon whom the fetters of religious disability still clung.
Humanly speaking, one
confidently predicted that as the Presbyterians and Dissenters were
as a result of a clamorous agitation against religious inequality, and
agitation derived its chief force and menace from the power of Catholic
in Ireland, then the members of these sects would unite with the
win for all an enjoyment of these rights the agitators and rebels had
But the prediction
missed the mark by several million miles. Instead, the Protestants who
persecuted joined with the Protestants who had persecuted them against
menace of an intrusion by the Catholics into the fold of political and
religious freedom---`Civil and religious liberty'.
There is no use
blaming them. It
is common experience in history that as each order fought its way
the circle of governing classes, it joined with its former tyrants in
endeavour to curb the aspirations of these orders still unfree.
That in Ireland
religious sects played the same game as elsewhere was played by
social classes does not prove the wickedness of the Irish players, but
serve to illustrate the universality of the passions that operate upon
stage of the world's history.
It also serves to
wisdom of the Socialist contention that as the working class has no
class beneath it, therefore, to the working class of necessity belongs
honour of being the class destined to put an end to class rule, since,
emancipating itself, it cannot help emancipating all other classes.
Individuals out of
must and will help, as individual Protestants have helped in the
for Catholic emancipation in Ireland;
but on the whole, the burden must rest upon the shoulders of the most
If the North-East
Ireland is, therefore, the home of a people whose minds are saturated
conceptions of political activity fit only for the atmosphere of the
seventeenth century, if the sublime ideas of an all-embracing democracy
as insistent upon its duties as upon its rights have as yet found poor
here, the fault lies not with this generation of toilers, but with
pastors and masters who deceived it and enslaved it in the past---and
it in order that they might enslave it.
But as no good can
blaming it, so also no good, but infinite evil, can come of truckling
Let the truth be told, however ugly. Here, the Orange working
class are slaves
in spirit because they have been reared up among a people whose
servitude were more slavish than their own. In Catholic Ireland, the
class are rebels in spirit and democratic in feeling because for
years they have found no class as lowly paid or as hardly treated as
At one time in the
world of Great Britain and Ireland the skilled labourer looked down
contempt upon the unskilled and bitterly resented his attempt to get
children taught any of the skilled trades; the feeling of the Orangemen
Ireland towards the Catholics is but a glorified representation on a
of the same passions inspired by the same unworthy motives.
An atavistic survival
of a dark
and ignorant past!
Viewing Irish politics
light of this analysis, one can see how futile and vain are the
the Labour Party in Parliament which are based upon a comparison of
done by the Nationalist group in the past and what is being left undone
Labour Group to-day. I am neither criticising nor defending the Labour
Parliament; I am simply pointing out that any criticism based upon an
with the actions, past or present, of the Irish party, is necessarily
The Irish party had
political traditions and prejudices of centuries to reinforce its
hostility to the Government, nay, more, its only serious rival among
constituents was a party more uncompromisingly hostile to the
itself---the republican or physical force party.
The Labour party, on
hand, has had to meet and overcome all the political traditions and
of its supporters in order to win their votes, and knows that at any
may lose these suffrages so tardily given.
The Irish party never
let the question of retaining the suffrages of the Irish electors enter
their calculations. They were almost always returned unopposed. The
party knows that a forward move on the part of either Liberal or Tory
always endanger a certain portion of Labour votes.
In other words, the
was a party to whose aid the mental habits formed by centuries of
as a reinforcement among its constituents at every stage of the
the Labour party is a party which, in order to progress, must be
breaking with and outraging institutions which the mental habits of its
supporters had for centuries accustomed them to venerate.
I have written in vain
if I have
not helped the reader to realise that the historical backgrounds of the
movement in England and Ireland are so essentially different that the
Socialist movement can only be truly served by a party indigenous to
and explained by a literature having the same source: that the phrases
watchwords which might serve to express the soul of the movement in one
may possibly stifle its soul and suffocate its expression in the other.
One great need of the
in Ireland is a literature of its very own. When that is written,
people will begin to understand why it is that the Irish Catholic
worker is a
good democrat and a revolutionist, though he knows nothing of the fine
theories of democracy or revolution; and how and why it is that the
that because the workers of Belfast live under the same industrial
do those of Great Britain, they are therefore subject to the same
to be influenced by the same methods of propaganda, is a doctrine
screamingly funny in its absurdity.
It is often said that
flag is a green flag to suit a green people, but the Dublin workers are
green as to believe that a party which voted against the Right to Work
the Minimum Wage for Miners, and the Minimum Wage for Railwaymen, which
intrigued against the application to Ireland of the Feeding of
School Children and the Medical Benefits of the National Health
can be described as anything else than a treacherous `friend' of Labour.
Some day a similar
come up North and the workers of the North-East corner will get tired
led by the nose by a party captained by landlords and place-hunting
Here, in North-East Ulster, the ascendancy party does not even need to pretend to
favourable to the aspirations of Labour; it is openly hostile and the
inculcation of slavish sentiments is a business it never neglects. In
the main difference between the parties---the growth of a rebellious
amongst the Nationalist democracy has compelled the Home Rule
pay court to Labour, to assume a virtue even when they have it not, but
lack of such a spirit in this section has enabled the Orange leaders to
flout and antagonise the Labour movement.
But times change and
with them. North-East Ulster democracy is awakening also, and we long for and will
see in Belfast movements
of Labour as great as, if not greater than any of which Dublin
In that glorious day Ulster
will fight, and Ulster will be right, but all those leaders who now trumpet
battle cry will then be found arrayed against the Ulster
· Forward, June
A correspondent of Forward
in a recent edition asked how it was that if the Orangemen were so bad
allowed Mr. Connolly to hold meetings in the principal streets of Belfast?
to that is that neither Mr. Connolly nor any other Socialist can now
outdoor meetings in an exclusively Orange district, even those Belfast
Socialists who `will not have Home Rule' in their programme, cannot
open-air meetings in any exclusively Orange district. Socialist
meetings in Belfast can only be
held in the business centre of the town where the passing crowd is of a
or uncertain nature.
All this demonstrates
immensely difficult is the task at present in Belfast.
No part of
these countries has a part more difficult. It means the propagation of
twentieth century revolutionism amidst the mental atmosphere of the
When striving to
induce my Belfast comrades to
adopt this policy we are now propagating in our meetings, I was asked
think it would make our propaganda easier. I answered that I did not,
the contrary it would arouse passions immensely more bitter than had
met here by the Socialist movement in the past, but that it would make
propaganda more fruitful and our organisation more enduring.
To this I still
adhere. A real
Socialist movement cannot be built by temporising in front of a dying
such as that of the Orange ascendancy, even although in the paroxysms
death struggle it assumes the appearance of an energy like unto that of
A real Socialist movement can only be born of struggle, of
affirmation of the faith that is in us. Such a movement infallibly
it every element of rebellion and of progress, and in the midst of the storm and stress of
the struggle solidifies into a real revolutionary force.
declare to the Orange workers of Belfast that we stand
for the right of the people in Ireland to rule as well as to own
cannot conceive of a separation of the two ideas, and to all and sundry
announce that as Socialists we are Home Rulers, but that on the day the
Rule Government goes into power the Socialist movement in Ireland will
August 23, 1913.