Ireland is in the throes of a new invasion. But whereas all other invasions have been invasions of fighting men, this last invasion is an invasion of men who have declined to fight.
Since the passing of the military service law and its coming into force in England this country has been flooded daily with fresh hordes of English and Scotch, who have run away from military service in their own country and settled down like a swarm of locusts upon Ireland.29
Simultaneously with this invasion by British shirkers we have witnessed a concerted and sustained effort on the part of the Labour Exchanges, and also on the part of firms in England under Government control, to entice able- bodied Irishmen out of Ireland to work in England. Advertisements are appearing in the daily press calling for the services of Irishmen to work in England, some even particularising Dublin men as being the kind of men they want. Thus we find that young able-bodied Irishmen are being seduced out of Ireland after being denied work on the grounds that they were fit for military service, and even whilst they leave Ireland in despair the country is filling up with cowardly runaways from England for whom these same employers are gladly finding employment at the jobs they refused to give Irishmen.
We are aware some captious critics will say that it is a new position for the Editor of the Workers' Republic to take to calling men cowardly runaways because they are trying to evade conscription. Whoever does so misses the whole point of our complaint. We are against conscription until we have
p.157something worth defending. The British workers, no more than the Irish, have not any stake in their Empire worth risking their lives to defend. That we freely grant.
But that being the case the duty of English workers is to stay at home and fight conscription, not to run away from that fight. We here in Ireland have been exempted from conscription for the present because, and only because, the best fighting material in the country have got arms in their hands and would have resisted conscription to the last drop of their blood. We have always admitted that we cannot remain at peace if the British Government wants us to fight. That Government can force us to fight whether we like or not. But neither that Government, nor any other Government, can decide for us the place where we are going to fight, if fight we must. And the best men in Ireland, the only men whom the Ireland of the future will care to remember, have decided long ago that if they must fight they will fight in Ireland, for Ireland, and under Ireland's flag.30
The knowledge of these facts has temporarily saved Ireland from conscription. There are in England and Scotland thousands of young men eligible for military service who have banded themselves together to resist conscription. All honour to them! These men are upholding the sanctity of the individual soul against the tyranny of empires. As rebels ourselves we cannot refuse them our admiration. But what shall we say of the thousands of young, able-bodied English, Scots, and Welsh, now settling down upon Irelandrecreants, runaways, traitors to both sides, who will neither fight under conscription, nor fight against it! Loyalists to a man, jingoes and Rule Britannia shouters every last one of them, they form the bulk of the audience at all West British functions, and spore the colours of the British Army on their persons as they parade our streets. But they are here to take our jobs, to take the bread out of the mouths of Irishmen whilst using those same
p.158Irishmen to go and fight for the Empire. Surely such unmitigated curs are typical products of Empireof an Empire that has accustomed itself to the practice of hiring slaves to fight freemen.
We wonder what is thought of these slackers and recreants by those Irish men and women whose relatives are at present risking their lives in the British Army, or have already lost life or limb in the British service. What a picture! Irish soldiers fighting for England; English slackers staying at home to grab the jobs of Irish soldiers. And Irish employers driving out Irishmen of military age to serve the Empire, and giving their jobs to Englishmen and Scotsmen who refuse to risk their precious skins for the Empire.
No work in Ireland for Irishmen, lots of work in Ireland for Brit-Hunsevery ship that goes to England carrying away Irish men to jobs in England; every ship that comes to Ireland carrying over Brit-Huns to jobs in Ireland.
Was ever a nation so beset?
And John E. Redmond's appeal for recruits to fight for this British Empire which these Britishers refuse to fight for is pasted on every hoarding and dead wall in the country.
If the devil is not immortal he must surely die of laughing at the work of his agents in Ireland.
We have received the following letter from a correspondent in Glasgow. We gladly publish it in order that our readers may have the pleasure of seeing us pilloried by an able writer, and judge for themselves as to the correctness of our position.
To the Editor of The Workers' Republic.
As a regular and admiring reader of the Republic, permit me to express my disappointment with your leading article, entitled The Slackers, in which you criticise those young
p.160men who are landing in Ireland to escape conscription. You dip your pen in vitriol and in the most intemperate language denounce them as slackers, recreants, cowardly runaways, Brit-Huns, and unmitigated curs.
Before opening your flood-gates of abuse you would surely make certain of your ground, and although you do not produce it, you doubtless possess abundant evidence that the men you denounce are everything you brand them. You have enjoyed their acquaintance for a few days now, and must have collected extensive proof that they are the `curs' you so charitably describe them to be. I would not ask you to produce this proof, only your lurid description does not tally with the impression of the men I formed during years of associ- ation with them.
You tell us the new arrivals are English, Welsh, and Scotch. Well, they were Irish when they sailed from here. Irish to a man. Fifty of my personal acquaintances are now basking in your comradely scowls. Half of them are Irish born and have returned to their natal roof-trees. The other half are born of Irish parents and have crossed to the hospitality of relatives. They don't sing Rule Britannia. They never sport the loyal colours. They duly hate England, and although they came here some years ago to steal the jobs (by selling their labour cheap) and take the bread out of the mouths of Scotchmen, they are not willing to be pressed into the Army if by the simple device of changing their locus they can evade it.
You are opposed to conscription. So are they. You say they should remain in Britain and fight against it. Don't you know the fight is over? Conscription has won. It is the law of the land. Those who fought against the Bill must now enter the Army, or devise some means of avoiding it. There are only two ways of keeping out of the Armyto step into prison or over to Ireland. Scotch
p.161and English resisters will go to prison; those who have friends in Ireland are choosing the lesser punishment of returning to their native land.
Whose applause do you hope to gain by such an article? What are your motives for writing in a strain that does you so little credit? If you believe it is wrong to join the Army, why deny a refuge to those who believe with you? If you believe the Irish workers are poor because of capitalist oppression, why mislead them to regard the Scotch and English workers, who may compete for jobs, as the authors of Irish misery.
The above is about the most amusing criticism we have ever come across. The writer coolly ignores our very explicit description of the men whom we attacked in our article, and proceeds to a totally unnecessary defence of people whom we did not attack. Then he waxes eloquent in defence of those men whom we did not attack. It is easy being virtuously indignant over an article if you persist in denying the facts upon which the article is based, and spread your ink over a totally different series of facts, that have nothing to do with the case.
For example: Our critic says the people whom he is defending Don't sing Rule Britannia, don't sport the loyal colours. But the people whom we were attacking do sport the loyal colours, and do sing Rule Britannia, and do shout for the war, and are blatant jingoes to a man; they are not Irish refugees returning to the land of their birth, or the land of their fathers. Oh, no, they are boys of the bull-dog breed, publicly and privately asserting that Irishmen should go out to fight for the Empire they will not shed their own blood to defend.
Dublin, Ireland, is rotten with these carrion; our patriotic jingo employers are continually discharging Irishmen and
p.162filling up their jobs with English and Scots and Welsh, and these Brit-Huns are neither socialists, radicals, no conscription fellowship members, nor people who believe with us that it is wrong to join the Army. So why does our Glasgow Reader get so excited, and indulge in such unworthy insinuations about our motives, and ask whose applause do we hope to gain, etc. He may be proud of his deftness in making such insinuations; we are willing he should enjoy all the credit of such literary finesse.
His last sentence is a gem of illogical and topsy-turvy reasoning. Let us repeat it: If you believe the Irish workers are poor because of capitalist oppression why mislead them to regard the Scotch and English workers who may compete for jobs as the authors of Irish misery?
Is not that a gem? Here is the position. The capitalist class of these countries have committed a great international crime. We stand solidly alongside of all those in Ireland who have opposed that crime from its inception to its latest development, and we have opposed and denounced all those who in Ireland have been accomplices of that crime whether those accomplices were of our own class, our nearest and dearest friends, or members of the exploiting classes.
Our attitude to parties in Great Britain has been exactly the same. We have encouraged the enemies of the war, and have exposed and denounced its friends and sponsors, regardless of the class to which they belong.
But because some of the shouters for the war, some of the blatant jingoes and union-jackers came over to Ireland, to help their rulers to depopulate Ireland by grabbing our jobs whilst our brothers are elbowed out to starve or enlist, our critic has nothing but covert insults for us when we dare to criticise them. He criticises the same element in Glasgow;
p.163insinuates that we are misleading the Irish workers when we criticise them after they have crossed the channel. So a Scotch jingo in Glasgow is fair game for a socialist writer, but when he crosses to Dublin we have to look upon him as a sacred personto attack whom is an offence against internationalism. A jingo is a jingo wherever we meet him, and as far as we are concerned there is no close season for jingoes. Nor game preserve in which they may not be hunted.
Our critic has allowed his generous sympathies for his comrades who have returned to Ireland to becloud his mind. We did not attack them. We know many of the Irish refugees who have left Great Britain for Ireland rather than serve in the British Army, and we admire them and welcome them in our midst. We know also some English and Scotch fighters who have been against the war from the start, have braved unpopularity with their own countrymen in opposing it, and if they find that they can continue their fighting better in Ireland than in Great Britain they also are welcome. But neither of these classes of immigrants into Ireland were in our mind when we wrote our article, and nothing but the most jaundiced imagination or the most slipshod reading could make the article apply to them.
And finally, let us say that we are sick of the canting talk of those who tell us that we must not blame the British people for the crimes of their rulers against Ireland. We do blame them. In so far as they support the system of society which makes it profitable for one nation to connive at the subjection of another nation they are responsible for every crime committed to maintain that subjection.
If there is any section of the British people who believe that Ireland would be justified in ending the British Empire if she could, in order to escape from thraldom to it, then that section may hold itself guiltless of any crime against Ireland. But if
p.164there is any such section, how small and utterly insignificant it is, since it nowhere gives public proof of its existence.
Of all the bodies called into existence by the fight against the war, and against conscription, is there one British organisation that claims for Ireland (or would even allow to Ireland) the same right to determine its national fate as all the British peace parties insist upon being secured to Belgium? There is not one.
The burden of all their cries is that no further conquests must be made. This means that all countries conquered before the war should remain conquered, subject countries. Especially does it mean that the British Empire should remain intact, and in possession of all its plunder.
This pirate Empire holds as a subject population, unrepresented in any parliament, one-sixth of the human race. Whosoever is of any of these subject races and dares to aspire to an existence for his country apart from the British Empire is seized as a criminal, and imprisoned or executed by our rulers. India, Egypt, Ireland, have all supplied examples in recent years. Yet this pirate crew who have seized upon and held in bondage this vast mass of humanity, one-sixth of the human race; who treat as a crime the noblest aspirations of freedom amongst that mass, the crew of this pirate Empire have always the enthusiastic support of the people of Great Britain in frustrating any attempt of a subject population to escape from the Empire.
As the glutton who has gorged himself to suffocation demands that everybody else should rise from the table so the noblest minds of England declare against further conquests by any of their national rivals. An Empire whose sword is ever drinking blood in some part of the world poses as the champion of the nations against the doctrine of force.
Such hypocrisy! We will believe in the guiltlessness of the British people when their spokesmen dare to recognise publicly that the British Empire cannot last, and so recognise the right
p.165of each one of its subject nations to be itself by the aid of any ally it can attach to its side.
For our part we take our stand openly upon the fundamental truth that Ireland is a subject nation, and that therefore Ireland has no national enemy in Europe save one, and that one is the nation that holds her in subjection.
Workers' Republic. , March 25, 1916.