From Workers’ Republic, 18 September 1915.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
Proofread by Chris Clayton, August 2007.
To all thoughtful labour men and women the recent meeting of the British Trade Union Congress presented a rather sorrowful spectacle. Time was when that Congress was regarded as embodying all the bright hopes and aspirations of a working class rapidly freeing itself from the mental and political fetters inherited from ages of servitude. Time was when the most beloved spokesmen of that Congress were those who most passionately declared that it was the duty of the workers to overthrow all the social, political and military tyrannies rooted in the capitalist system of which the British Empire is the perfected fruit. Time was when the unanimous voice of that Congress declared that the working class had no enemy except the capitalist class – that of its own country at the head of the list. Time was when the orators at all the meetings attendant upon that Congress declaimed their love of human brotherhood, and their contempt for all the racial, religious and national catchcries that were used to keep the peoples separate and warring.
But now! Alas, how have the mighty fallen! Gone are all the bright hopes of a class fighting to free itself from fetters, and scornfully contemptuous of the interests or ambitions of its masters. Instead we have a Congress deliberately putting aside the hopes of the workers in order to help the schemes of murder set on foot by the capitalist state. We have a Congress where a leader like George N. Barnes uses his position to attack his own Union for insisting upon its Trade Union rights where a leader like the President of the Congress advises his hearers not to read literature presenting a different view on the war to that popularised by the capitalist newspapers; where a leader like Ben Tillett foams at the mouth against those who desire peace as a few months ago he foamed at the mouth against those who desired war; where every voice belched forth hatred of their brothers under a different government, and where the quarrels fomented by the capitalist class were made more important as standards of worth than services in the interests of Labour, or aspirations for a world where men can live guiltless of plotting the murder of their fellowmen. A Congress which declared against compulsory service or conscription, but in the same breath declared it would accept it if its rulers declared it to be necessary.
We have ere now looked hopefully to the British Trade Union Congress, but our hopes are gone. The British Empire is ruled by the most astute ruling class in the world; the British working class is the most easily fooled working class in the world.
God help the poor Irish as long as they remain yoked to such a combination.
Last updated on 28.9.2007