War in Dublin
In Dublin, the capital of Ireland—a city
of a not highly industrial type, with a population of half a million—the class struggle, which permeates the whole life
of capitalist society everywhere, has become accentuated to the point of class war. The police have positively gone wild;
drunken policemen assault peaceful workers, break into houses, torment the aged, women and children. Hundreds of workers (over
400) have been injured and two killed—such are the casualties of this war. All prominent workers’ leaders have
been arrested. People are thrown into prison for making the most peaceful speeches. The city is like an armed camp.
What has happened? How could such a war have
flared up in a peaceable, cultured, civilised free state?
Ireland is something of a British Poland, only
rather more like Galicia than the Poland represented by Warsaw, Lodz and Dombrowski. National oppression and Catholic reaction
have turned the proletarians of this unhappy country into paupers, the peasants into toilworn, ignorant and dull slaves of
the priesthood, and the bourgeoisie into a phalanx, masked by nationalist phrases, of capitalists, of despots over the workers;
finally, the administration has been turned into a gang accustomed to every kind of violence.
At the present moment the Irish nationalists
(i.e., the Irish bourgeoisie) are the victors. They are buying up the lands of the English landlords; they are getting national
self-government (the famous Home Rule for which such a long and stubborn struggle has been going on between Ire land and England);
they will freely govern “their own” country jointly with “their own” Irish priests.
Well, this Irish nationalist bourgeoisie is
celebrating its “national” victory, its maturity in “affairs of state” by declaring a war to the death
on the Irish labour movement.
An English Lord-Lieutenant lives in Dublin,
but in fact he has less power than the Dublin capitalist leader, a certain Murphy, publisher of the Independent (“Independent”—my
eye!), principal shareholder and director of the Dublin tramways, and a shareholder in many capitalist enterprises in Dublin.
Murphy has declared, on behalf of all the Irish capitalists, of course, that he is ready to spend three-quarters of a million
pounds (nearly seven million rubles) to destroy the Irish trade unions.
And these unions have begun to develop magnificently.
The Irish proletariat, awakening to class-consciousness, is pressing the Irish bourgeois scoundrels engaged in celebrating
their “national” victory. It has found a talented leader in the person of Comrade Larkin, Secretary of the Irish
Transport Workers’ Union. Larkin is a remarkable speaker, a man of seething Irish energy, who has performed miracles
among the unskilled workers—that mass of the British proletariat which in Britain is so often cut off from the advanced
workers by the cursed petty-bourgeois, liberal, aristocratic spirit of the British skilled worker.
A new spirit bas been aroused in the Irish workers’
unions. The unskilled workers have brought unparalleled animation into the trade unions. Even the women have begun to organise—a
thing hitherto unknown in Catholic Ireland. So far as organisation of the workers is concerned Dublin looks like becoming
one of the foremost towns in the whole of Great Britain. The country that used to be typified by the fat, well-fed Catholic
priest and the poor, starving, ragged worker who wore his rags even on Sunday because he could not afford Sunday clothes,
that country, though it bears a double and triple national yoke, has begun to turn into a country with an organised army of
Well, Murphy proclaimed a crusade of the bourgeoisie
against Larkin and “Larkinism”. To begin with, 200 tramwaymen were dismissed in order to provoke a strike during
the exhibition and embitter the whole struggle. The Transport Workers’ Union declared a strike and demanded the reinstatement
of the discharged men. Murphy engineered lock-outs. The workers retaliated by downing tools. War raged all along the line.
Passions flared up.
Larkin—incidentally, he is the grandson
of the famous Larkin executed in 1867 for participating in the Irish liberation movement—delivered fiery speeches at
meetings. In these speeches he pointed out that the party of the English bourgeois enemies of Irish Home Rule was openly calling
for resistance to the government, was threatening revolution, was organising armed resistance to Home Rule and with absolute
impunity was flooding the country with revolutionary appeals.
But what the reactionaries, the English chauvinists
Car son, Londonderry and Bonar Law (the English Purishkeviches, the nationalists who are persecuting Ireland), may do the
proletarian socialist may not. Larkin was arrested. A meeting called by the workers was banned.
Ireland, however, is not Russia. The attempt
to suppress the right of assembly evoked a storm of indignation. Larkin had to be tried. At the trial Larkin became the accuser
and, in effect, put Murphy in the dock. By cross-questioning witnesses Larkin proved that Murphy had had long conversations
with the Lord-Lieutenant on the eve of his, Larkin’s, arrest. Larkin declared the police to be in Murphy’s pay,
and no one dared gainsay him.
Larkin was released on bail (political liberty
cannot be abolished at one stroke). Larkin declared that he would appear at a meeting no matter what happened. And indeed,
he came to one disguised, and began to speak to the crowd. The police recognised him, seized him and beat him up. For two
days the dictatorship of the police truncheon raged, crowds were clubbed, women and children were brutally treated. The police
broke into workers’ homes. A worker named Nolan, a member of the Transport Workers’ Union, was beaten to death.
Another died of injuries.
On Thursday, September 4 (August 22, Old Style,
i.e Russian calendar), Nolan’s funeral took place. The proletariat of Dublin followed in a procession 50,000 strong
behind the body of their comrade. The police brutes lay low, not daring to annoy the crowd, and exemplary order prevailed.
“This is a more magnificent demonstration than when they buried Parnell” (the celebrated Irish nationalist leader),
said an old Irishman to a German correspondent.
The Dublin events mark a turning-point in the
history of the labour movement and of socialism in Ireland. Murphy has threatened to destroy the Irish trade unions. He has
succeeded only in destroying the last remnants of the influence of the Irish nationalist bourgeoisie over, the Irish proletariat.
He has helped to steel the independent revolutionary working-class movement in Ireland, which is free of nationalist prejudices.
This was seen immediately at the Trades Union
Congress which opened on September 1 (August 19, 0. S.), in Manchester. The Dublin events inflamed the delegates—despite
the resistance of the opportunist trade union leaders with their petty-bourgeois spirit and their admiration for the bosses.
The Dublin workers’ delegation was given an ovation. Delegate Partridge, Chairman of the Dublin branch of the Engineers’
Union, spoke about the abominable outrages committed by the police in Dublin. A young working girl had just gone to bed when
the police raided her house. The girl hid in the closet, but was dragged out by the hair. The police were drunk. These “men”
(if one may call them such) beat up ten-year-old lads and even five-year-old children!
Partridge was twice arrested for making speeches
which the judge himself admitted were peaceful. “I am sure,” said Partridge, “that I would now be arrested
if I were to recite the Lord’s Prayer in public.”
The Manchester Congress sent a delegation to
Dublin. The bourgeoisie there again took up the weapon of nationalism (just like the bourgeois nationalists in Poland, or
in the Ukraine, or among the Jews!) declaring that “Englishmen have no business on Irish soil!” But, fortunately,
the nationalists have already lost their influence over the workers.
Speeches delivered at the Manchester Congress
were of a kind that had not been heard for a long time. A resolution was moved to transfer the whole Congress to Dublin, and
to organise a general strike throughout Britain. Smillie, the Chairman of the Miners’ Union, stated that the Dublin
methods would compel all British workers to resort to revolution and that they would be able to learn the use of arms.
The masses of the British workers are slowly
but surely taking a new path—they are abandoning the defence of the petty privileges of the labour aristocracy for their
own great heroic struggle for a new system of society. And once on this path the British proletariat, with their energy and
organisation, will bring socialism about more quickly and securely than anywhere else.